Research article by Norshahril Saat featured in Asian Journal of Social Sciences: “Theologians “Moralising” Indonesia?”

The research article which was first published by Asian Journal of Social Sciences can be viewed here.


After the fall of the New Order in 1998, the Ulama Council of Indonesia (MUI) has been in the limelight for many of its controversial and conservative fatwa (legal opinions). Formed in 1975 by President Suharto, MUI was intended to serve as an institution to manage and discipline dissent, challenges and defiance by grassroots organisations. However, recent writings point to its changing character: Its fatwas are becoming more conservative; it is more assertive and powerful; and its fatwas, particularly the 2005 SIPILIS (anti-secularism, pluralism and liberalism), are deemed as contributing to violence towards minorities. This article reassess the scholarly conclusions and media reports made about the relationship between MUI, the Indonesian state and society. Examining MUI’s attempt to define public morality as a case study, particularly its role in the 2008 pornography bill and efforts to “moralise” entertainment, the article argues that MUI is internally fragmented and weak.

Dr Norshahril Saat is a Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.