Indonesia's 1989 Religious Judicature Act: Islamization of Indonesia
or Indonesianization of Islam?
by Mark Cammack
In 1989 the Indonesian legislature passed and President Suharto signed a new law governing the country's Islamic courts. The statute, known as the Religious Judicature Act2 (the Act), significantly enhanced the legal and institutional standing of the Islamic courts by providing formal legal guarantees of their security and increasing the level of state support. The Act also expanded and equalized the courts7 powers. Prior to the passage of the Act the substantive competence of Islamic courts on the populous islands of Java and Madura extended only to matters of marriage and divorce. The 1989 Act expanded the Islamic courts' jurisdiction to include inheritance throughout the country. The Act also strengthened the standing of the Islamic courts in relation to the civil courts by eliminating a rule dating from the nineteenth century which had required that decisions of Islamic courts must be ratified by a civil court to be enforceable.
The enactment of the Religious Judicature Act seemed to signal a reversal in New Order policy on the role of religion in public life and the enforcement of Islamic law.
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