Nathan Spiro on Progressive Islam and Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Thesis)

Nathan Spiro
2017 Frans Seda Foundation Twin Scholarship Awardee

Thesis: Progressive Islam and Majelis Ulama Indonesia: Progressive Islamic perceptions on religious diversity management by an Indonesian religious council.

Keywords: Intra- religious diversity, Islam in Indonesia, Progressive Islam, Majelis Ulama Indonesia

Abstract: This study maps perceptions from progressive Islamic representatives in contemporary Indonesia towards the management of religious diversity by a religious council called the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI). Two cases where the MUI used their fatwas (religious opinions) to manage religious diversity are central in this thesis. These cases are used to reveal insights on the progressive Islamic landscape and issues that progressive Islam is facing in Indonesia. Firstly, this study argues that the MUI with their fatwa no.7 -which opposes religious pluralism, Islamic liberalism and secularism- affected the functioning of the progressive Islamic landscape negatively. Secondly, this thesis demonstrates that the MUI’s religious statements during the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2017 are a continuation of their fatwa no.7. Their affirmation of the practicality of Surah Al Maidah 51 during the elections sheds light on their point of view towards religious pluralism. Like fatwa no.7, their recent religious guidelines exacerbated the already present critical perspectives from the progressive Islamic side towards the increasingly political-ideological character of the MUI. This thesis concludes that the MUI is strengthening its position as a representative of the Indonesian Ummah. Their involvement in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections show that they took an additional step in their attempt to curb religiosity. This, on the one hand, shakes-up the progressive Islamic camp, while on the other, gives justification to conservative and reactionary Islamic initiatives.

Full thesis