Blasphemy, Islam and the State : Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia book cover
1st Edition

Blasphemy, Islam and the State
Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia

ISBN 9781138694675
Published October 17, 2016 by Routledge
222 Pages

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Book Description

This book draws on the work of Rawls to explore the interaction between faith, law and the right to religious freedom in post-Soeharto Indonesia, the world’s largest democracy after India and the United States.  It argues that enforcement of Islamic principles by the state is inconsistent with religious diversity and the country’s liberal constitution.  The book thus contributes to understanding the role of religion in the development of democracy in the world’s largest Muslim nation. A key objective is to test the argument that Rawls’ thinking about public reason cannot apply to the case of Indonesia, and Muslim states more broadly. The book therefore contributes to emerging scholarship that considers Rawls in a Muslim context. In addition to examining public reason in detail and considering critiques of the concept, the work highlights the fact that the theory was created to deal with value pluralism and is therefore relevant in any religious setting, including an Islamic one. In doing so, it emphasises that Islam is multifaceted and demonstrates the difficulties, and negative consequences, of integrating faith and law in a liberal state.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Islam and Pluralism

Setting the scene – sholat dwi bahasa

Ritual prayer – a Pillar of Islam

Islam, the Constitution and the State

Contribution of the Research – Why Rawls?

Chapter Outline

Chapter 2: Rawls and the Challenge of Faith

Political liberalism

Overlapping Consensus

Public reason

The Role of Courts

Commentary and critique

Agreement and Divergence


Chapter 3: Faith and Freedom in Indonesian Law

The Promotion and Protection of Religion

State, Law and Religion

Judicial review of the Blasphemy Law

The Constitution - Compromise or Compromised?


Chapter 4: MUI – The Institutionalising of Indonesian Islam

Islam in Indonesia

Innovation and related concepts

Innovation in Indonesian Islam

Majelis Ulama Indonesia and its fatawa

Orthodoxy Entrenched


Chapter 5: Case Study Part 1 – The Language of Devotion

Pondok Itikaf Jamaah Ngaji Lelaku

The publications

The fatawa

Key events

Reaction and Resonances


Chapter 6: Case Study Part 2 – Innovation on Trial

The Indictment


Defence Case

Court Decision


Blasphemy - A Case Note


Chapter 7: Islam, Public Reason and the State

Case Study of Post-Soeharto Indonesia

Rawls, Islam and the State

Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia

Rawls and Indonesian Pluralism



International Instruments

Legislation and Legislative Instruments


Books and Journal Articles



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Stewart Fenwick is an Honorary Professor of the Australian Catholic University at the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society, and an Associate of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, and the Asian Law Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia. He was awarded the Harold Luntz Graduate Research Thesis Prize for 2015 at the Melbourne Law School, and was awarded the Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in the PhD Thesis for 2016 at the University of Melbourne.


'A masterly exploration of the intersection between legal, political and religious institutions in Indonesia as they engage with the difficult issue of religious freedom and blasphemy.'

Professor Abdullah Saeed, University of Melbourne, Australia

'Based on extensive fieldwork in Java, this is a beautifully written and meticulously researched account of the paradox that democratisation in Indonesia led to rising intolerance in the Muslim community. It has important implications for the wider intellectual project of reconciling Islamic thought with Western modernity.'

Professor Tim Lindsey, University of Melbourne, Australia