Constitutionalism, Islam and the Practice of Religious Deference: The Case of the Indonesian Constitutional Court
15 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 7, 2016
This article reflects on the approach of the Indonesian Constitutional Court, and the strategies of the applicants, in two important cases that have been brought to the court challenging the constitutional validity of the Blasphemy Law. The distinctly different approaches and arguments made in each of these cases suggest that applicants make strategic decisions when bringing such politically-charged cases on religion before the Constitutional Court. The article argues that both of these cases, despite widely differing arguments, presented a challenge to the existing practise of selective religious deference in Indonesia. This idea of religious deference is understood as the way the state relates to religious authorities and religious sources of law. This approach is defined in a narrow sense as it is selective in the religions it recognises and sponsors, and allows the state to capitalise on the legitimacy and moral authority that religious leaders generate in Indonesia. The article suggests that the Constitutional Court’s rejection of both these cases can be seen as an effort to maintain the states’ existing blasphemy policy in order to leave the fragile yet negotiable practice of religious deference, and therefore the authority of religious leaders, unchallenged.
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