From Public Polemics to Discreet Religious Existence
Revenge, Politics and Blasphemy in Pakistan by Adeel Hussain, London: Hurst & Company, 2022; pp viii+173, `2,544 (hardcover).
Religion and sovereignty are deeply intertwined in Pakistan’s politics in the larger context of power struggle and the agitational politics that ensues on the issue of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. In this process of establishing political legitimacy, (blasphemy) laws have played a significant role in regulating the society and in defining the citizen–state relationship in the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan. Over the span of more than 70 years, the “duty” to defend Muhammad’s honour has become central to the idea of nationhood that has resulted in high-profile assassinations as well as persecution of Muslim and non-Muslim minorities.
The scholarship on blasphemy in Pakistan emerged from two major prisms of history—first, its construction and development traced from the context of the British colonial rule, and second, its institutionalisation found to be rooted in the Islamisation period of the 1970s and 1980s and the rise of populist politics in the country. In Revenge, Politics and Blasphemy in Pakistan, Adeel Hussain, a legal historian, takes a long view of history in tracing the genealogy of blasphemy, beginning with the intra- and interfaith polemical debates that were taking place in the ideological landscape of the 19th- and 20th-century South Asia, marked by the binaries of majority–minority, mainstream–marginal, and superiority–inferiority frameworks.
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