Liberalism, Majoritarianism, and Religious Conservativism in Contemporary Indonesia


Single Panel

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Session 5
Thu 09:00–10:30 Room 1.101


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On 18 August 2000, a second amendment was made to Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution. What resulted was the incorporation of a raft of liberal democratic human rights guarantees, which included the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of religion, and the right to freedom of assembly. Ironically, these same liberal democratic freedoms facilitated a backlash of conservative Islamic sentiment, which resulted in, among other things, the growth of religious vigilantism, greater sectarianism, an increase in the number of blasphemy convictions, and an increase in the number of Islamising regulations issued at the local government level. For almost two decades now, Indonesian democracy has become well established, but it has simultaneously veered away from the liberal democratic ideals contained in its highest law toward the illiberal and majoritarian notion of‘religious harmony'. Religious harmony, as Indonesia’s Constitutional Court articulated in 2010, is the notion that public order is maintained by prioritising the protection of the religious sensibilities and religious orthodoxy of Indonesia’s Sunni Muslim majority over the fundamental rights of the country’s religious minorities. While this shift has been endorsed by the state and judiciary, and led to a resurgence of what Jeremy Menchik refers to as ‘Godly Nationalism’ in the public sphere, religious expression in Indonesia remains a site of constant contestation. This panel thus seeks to address the contemporary socio- legal trajectories that underpin the politicisation of religion, asking how it manifests itself, and whether the country will change trajectory and begin to uphold the democratic ideals enshrined in Indonesia's highest law.