Washington International Law Journal


Simon Butt


Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country. Yet it is not an Islamic state and is unlikely to become one, despite the strong and sustained urgings of some Muslim groups. Indonesian Islam is, like Indonesian society itself, dynamic and diverse, accommodating a wide variety of practices and beliefs. One area of contention between conservative Muslims on the one hand, and the state (supported by many more moderate Muslims) on the other, is the extent to which Islamic law should be recognised, applied and enforced by institutions of state. The Indonesian government's response has generally been to limit formal recognition of Islamic law to specified areas of family law and finance, codifying the relevant principles and enforcing them through Islamic courts. This article considers whether the constitutional freedom of religion, introduced in 2000, requires the state to provide mechanisms to apply and enforce the corpus of Islamic law. In particular, it discusses two cases in which Muslims asked the Indonesian Constitutional Court to consider whether freedom of religion required the state to remove restrictions on polygamy, and to allow Indonesia's Religious Courts to apply Islamic law in its entirety, including criminal law.

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