Indonesian Constitutional Court Decision No. 19 of 2008: Constitutionality of Law No. 7 of 1989 on the Religious Judiciary

The applicant, Suryani, requested that the Constitutional Court review the constitutionality of art 49 (and its elucidatory statement) of Law No. 7 of 1989 on the Religious Judiciary. Article 49 of Law No. 7 of 1989 states: 'Religious courts are tasked and authorised to investigate, determine, and resolve cases in the first instance between persons of the Islamic faith in the areas of: a. marriage (perkawinan); b. inheritance (waris); c. wills (wasiat); d. gifts (hibah); e. endowments (wakaf); f. alms-giving (zakat); g. infaq; h. shadaqah; and i. shari'a economy (ekonomi syari'ah). The applicant submitted that art 49 circumscribed his constitutional right to freedom of religion and to practise that religion in accordance with that religion's teachings, as guaranteed by arts 28E(1), 28I(1) and (2), and 29(1) and (2) of the Constitution.

In dismissing the application, Justice Moh. Mahfud MD, on behalf of the court, noted that the applicant's submissions were incompatible with the relationship between the state and religion in Indonesia. Specifically, Moh. Mahfud MD held that Indonesia is not a country based on one religion, nor is it a secular state that transfers religious affairs to the individual and society. Rather, Indonesia is a state based on the belief in Almighty God (ber-Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa), which protects every person's right to practise their respective religion. In abiding by the Indonesian state philosophy of Pancasila ('five principles'), national law must, therefore, guarantee state ideology and territorial integrity, while facilitating just and courteous religious tolerance. It follows that Indonesian national law is a vehicle for national unity and that the Indonesian state is not based on majoritarianism or minoritarianism, ethnicity or race. While it can be said that Islamic law constitutes a source of national laws, it is not the sole source thereof, with customary (adat) law, Western law, and other traditional legal sources also serving as sources of national law.

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