Fundamental Rights Lawfare: Religious Freedom and Public Order in Pakistan and Malaysia

Fundamental Rights Lawfare: Religious Freedom and Public Order in Pakistan and Malaysia

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 - 2:00pm
Venue: 
Syndicate Room, St Antony's College
Speaker(s): 
Matthew Nelson (SOAS)
Convenor: 
Rosalind O'Hanlon
Series: 
South Asia Seminar

Building on constructivist theories concerning national-identity formation as well as institutionalist theories regarding the regulatory power of law (here, constitutional and international human-rights laws protecting religious freedom subject to politically shifting claims regarding 'public order'), this paper examines a pattern of majoritarian national identity formation in Muslim-majority Pakistan and Malaysia. Specifically, the paper illuminates a pattern of intra-religious boundary-formation grounded in what I call fundamental-rights lawfare—a pattern in which majoritarian religious actors urge senior judges to operationalize formal religious-freedom provisions in ways that ‘securitize’ certain self-identifying co-religionists as provocative heretics. Seen as doctrinal provocateurs posing a risk to ‘public order’, these heretics are used (in a religious, political, and formal legal sense) to define the outer boundaries of each country’s constitutional community. 

Matthew Nelson (PhD Columbia) is a Reader in Politics at SOAS. His research focuses on the comparative and international politics of South Asia, with an emphasis on non-elite politics, constitutional politics, the politics of Islamic institutions (law, education), and democracy.