Modernizing Pakistan's Blasphemy Law as Hate Speech
It is difficult to define blasphemy. What is regarded as blasphemous will depend on the values prevalent in a given society. In general, it includes denigrating and insulting expressions targeted toward God and other aspects of religion. My thesis is that blasphemy, to the extent it should be dealt with by the law, should be regarded a sub-category of hate speech. The law should concern itself only with those aspects of blasphemy which incite hatred against a group which is identifiable on the basis of religion. More specifically, I argue that Pakistan should repeal its blasphemy law (s. 295-c Penal Code, 1860) because blasphemous prosecutions are politically, socially, economically and culturally motivated while religion is only used as a legitimizing tool by opportunists. Canada is an example in this regard. While the Canadian Criminal Code prohibition of blasphemous libel (s. 296) is vague and would likely be held to infringe freedom of expression unjustifiably, the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code are much more precisely worded and have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as a justifiable infringement of freedom of expression. Thus, the argument of this thesis is that the approach taken in s. 319(2) offers a useful model for modernizing Pakistan’s laws on blasphemy as hate speech.