Islamic scholars in Pakistan push for hate speech ban

For the Christian Science Monitor:

Pakistan’s top body of Islamic scholars is pushing for a crackdown on hate speech in an effort to curb intra-faith violence in the world’s second-largest Muslim country.

Last month, 32 groups representing the major Islamic sects in Pakistan signed on to a code of conduct that prohibits hate speech against other sects, restricts the use of mosque loudspeakers, and bans incendiary literature and graffiti.

The religious leaders are trying to combat a steady rise in sectarian disputes. In 2012, at least 537 Pakistanis were killed in attacks related to religious sect, a 71 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. Yet while the effort has been praised for its goals, there is widespread skepticism that it can be enforced.

The voluntary code of conduct, announced on Dec. 2, came on the heels of lethal riots in Rawalpindi, a garrison town outside Islamabad. Eleven people died after a procession organized by Shia worshipers ended in clashes with students at a Sunni seminary.

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