1st Edition

Blasphemy, Islam and the State Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia

By Stewart Fenwick Copyright 2017
    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.




    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




    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