Islam, the State and the Constitutional Court in Indonesia

19 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2010

See all articles by Simon Butt

Simon Butt

The University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 28, 2010


Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. Of its approximately 240 million people, around 88 percent call themselves Muslims. Yet, the proper place for Islam within the Indonesian legal and political systems is an issue of continuing debate and contest. Muslim groups have, since colonial times, regularly and vocally pushed for a greater political and legal role for Islam. But the state – both colonial and independent – has resisted many of their demands. This article identifies a new player in the contest between the state and Islam – the Constitutional Court. Established in 2003, the Court has power to ensure that legislation enacted by Indonesia’s national parliament complies with the Indonesian Constitution. It is the first Indonesian court to have been granted these powers. It has invalidated several statutes which contradict Indonesia’s constitutional Bill of Rights, inserted during a constitutional amendment round in 2000. As this article aims to show, the Court’s function puts it in a critical position as an arbiter between the central government and Islam, because the Constitution contains both Pancasila – Indonesia’s state ideology which requires a role for religion within the state – and provisions guaranteeing freedom of religion for citizens.

Keywords: Islam, constitution, constitutional court, Indonesia

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Butt, Simon, Islam, the State and the Constitutional Court in Indonesia (July 28, 2010). Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 279-301, 2010, Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/70, Available at SSRN:

Simon Butt (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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