The Majelis Ulama Indonesia and its Role in the Ahok Conviction
18 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 14, 2020
This article addresses the role played by Indonesia’s peak Islamic body, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), in the prosecution and conviction of the former governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama. The article analyses the ways in which certain members of MUI used the organisation’s self-anointed position as Indonesia’s khadim al-ummah (servant of the Islamic people) to compromise Ahok’s constitutional right to a fair trial. The article draws on the Religious Opinion and Stance (Pendapat dan Sikap Keagamaan) issued by MUI on 11 October 2016, which declared Ahok’s remarks delivered on 27 September 2016 on Pramuka Island to be blasphemous and insulting to both the ulama (Islamic scholars) and umma (Muslim population). The article also draws on key court documents relevant to Ahok’s prosecution, the convicting judgment of the North Jakarta State Court, and interviews conducted in Jakarta with Ahok’s chief legal counsel, as well as key religious expert witnesses for the defence. The article cautions that not all members of MUI supported Ahok’s conviction; indeed, several of its members opposed it and worked with Ahok’s defence team to have Ahok exonerated. In order to conceptualise this nuance, the article adopts a discourse-coalition approach, thereby distinguishing key actors along ‘Islamist-majoritarian’ and ‘liberal-democratic’ lines, rather than organisational lines or affiliation with MUI.
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