Working Paper 140
Islamisation by Law and the Juridification of Religion in Anomic Indonesia
Department ‘Law & Anthropology’
Year of publication
Number of pages
Wokring Paper 140
This paper addresses a seeming paradox: while after the fall of Suharto in May 1998 Islam has not gained significant traction in Indonesian politics, Indonesian state law has in fact accommodated Islam ever more conspicuously. Some scholars have argued that only because some degree of legislative authority has been devolved from the centre to the regions in the course of the decentralisation process initiated by Suharto’s successor B.J. Habibie in 1999, those areas known as traditional strongholds of Islam have used their newly acquired legislative powers to issue shari’a-based regional regulations. They further claim that the Islamisation of law has basically stopped with these regions and at that administrative level. I will show, however, that the legal accommodation of Islamic normativity has long reached the level of national legislation, extending beyond the traditionally Islamist areas. While this dynamic does attest to what John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff have called the judicialisation of politics – or lawfare – accompanying the turn from state capitalism to a neo-liberal model in many parts of the world today, it is not altogether without historical precedent. In fact, it brings to mind Karl Polanyi’s observation of a double movement of law in 19th and early 20th century Europe. Polanyi pointed to the crucial role of law both in the dis-embedding of the economy from local norms and institutions and in attempts of re-embedding it. During the rise of capitalism in 19th and early 20th century Europe, the increasing liberalisation of the market through the enactment of respective legislation created an anomic society (Émile Durkheim) that subsequently gave birth to different totalitarian regimes and the juridification of anti-liberal norms, to the detriment of large segments of their respective societies. The ongoing juridification of Islam in Indonesia today is a similar effort, I argue, to attenuate the negative local impact of economic deregulation and globalisation, which have helped undermine the rule of law and shared moral standards, by taking recourse in anti-liberal concepts of modernity that are preoccupied with the regulation of individual behavior in accordance with local norms and institutions.