Islamic law revision promotes 'common sense among Muslims'
- From: "ayeye1" <ayeye@l...>
Date: Sat Oct 9, 2004 4:50 am
Subject: Islamic law revision promotes 'common sense among Muslims'
The Jakarta Post
Islamic law revision promotes 'common sense among Muslims'
The chief researcher at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Siti
Musdah Mulia, caused controversy with her team's draft revision of
the body of Islamic law, which among other things bans polygamy and
introduces interfaith marriage. If approved, related laws such as
the one on marriage would have to be amended. She spoke with The
Jakarta Post's Muninggar Sri Saraswati about the controversy.
Question: Could you explain the background of the legal draft
revision of the body of Islamic law introduced by your team?
Answer: There are several reasons, actually. It started in 2001 when
the Office for the State Minister for Women's Empowerment introduced
a policy, namely zero tolerance, which laid the foundation for a
national drive against any form of violence. One form of violence
that must be eliminated is culturally driven violence. We identified
some of the roots of culturally driven violence in some of the
articles in the body of Islamic law (KHI).
The second reason came in 2002, when the Directorate General of
Religious Judiciary at the Ministry of Religious Affairs proposed a
bill on religious courts for marriage and inheritance. But the draft
only copied and pasted KHI's draft without any significant changes.
Of course, it spelled out penalties. For example, those who practice
polygamy in a way that is not in line with the law could face a Rp
20 million fine. But who would monitor for violations? Could the
police do that as the ministry does not have officers?
Even if the law was strictly implemented, it would be prone to
corruption. People would do anything to get Rp 20 million. It would
be better to ban polygamy all at once instead. It would be very
dangerous if the bill was deliberated and passed by the House of
Representative as it is.
I heard the draft has been submitted by the Supreme Court, which
took over the supervision of the religious courts in June, to get
the President's consent before it is brought to the House. Imagine
if we did nothing to the bill.
Some say your team's draft revision is a revolution in Islamic law.
I don't think so. For example, the ban against polygamy is not new
to Muslim societies. It came into effect in Tunisia in 1959 and then
Some mainstream Muslim figures say they will not approve the draft
Of course, my team and I anticipated that. Some people in the
ministry have also opposed the draft. But we expect people to open
up their minds and see that the KHI is not sacred. It is debatable
and revisable. It is laws made by humans and for our benefit. Why
can't we be realistic and rational?
The KHI was introduced in 1991 through a presidential decree. What
were the reasons behind its introduction?
It was issued because the government was very authoritarian. It was
actually a response by the government to complaints by people about
inconsistent verdicts by the religious courts because the courts
used different fiqih (Islamic jurisprudence). There was no Islamic
law unification back then.
People were not used to the differences. Unfortunately, instead of
educating people to accept differences, the government gathered
ulemas and Islamic law experts to create the KHI for the sake of
Are you facing different challenges with this draft?
Yes, but I won't give up. Five years ago, no Indonesian imagined
there would be a direct presidential election. And now we just held
a peaceful direct presidential election. I know we are facing
tougher challenges for this draft. It may take us more than five
Religious issues cannot be taken for granted. Who can say that one
opinion is the most authentic? The draft revision is not rigid,
everyone is welcome to discuss it, without any political motives.
What has been the public response so far?
We have held a series of discussions and the opposition is
unbelievable on two issues: Interfaith marriage and polygamy. Most
of the participants could accept other articles in the draft. Some
of them told me that if articles on interfaith marriage and polygamy
were approved, they would prefer to be atheists.
What is the actual danger of interfaith marriage? Corruption is more
dangerous than interfaith marriage, as the former harms the nation.
Actually, Islam provides many opinions on interfaith marriage. I
just cannot understand why it must be banned. You cannot agree with
interfaith marriage, but you cannot order others to follow your
Polygamy causes various social excesses, particularly at the expense
of the abandoned wives and children whose status in society is
affected. Actually, we believe Islam is monogamous. Polygamy is for
prophets and those who have the same level as prophets, not for
common human beings like us. People might boast they can uphold
fairness in practicing polygamy, but why are 90 percent of
polygamous marriages not registered with the state? They must hide
Therefore, our draft says that an Islamic marriage is not legal
without registering it with the state.
Some Muslim figures may oppose you, but have you won support from
other groups? Women groups, perhaps?
We have received some support. But, well, I am rather sad to say
that most Muslim women do not understand their rights. They just
take their religion for granted. They never question anything when
it comes to religion despite some of them having obtained a master's
You see, most of them think that being a housewife means you must do
household chores without help from their husband. Come on, you don't
need a womb to cook, do you? I understand that we live in a
patriarchal society, but we must be rational and realistic.
Some people have accused your team of not having convincing
arguments to back up some of the articles in the draft?
They may say that, but we studied thousands of books and fiqih over
two years. We do not make a textual analysis only as a textbook does
not talk; it's humans who talk. My team consists of seven men and
three women. We are not paid for this work.