Indonesia's national ulama council, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, or MUI, has successfully transformed itself during the reform era reversing its earlier relationship with government. It is the MUI that now sets the agenda on appropriate ways to recognize, protect, and promote the majority faith. However it does not operate entirely separate to the state, indeed, there are numerous points of contact and mutual dependence between this group of Islamic scholars and state agencies.
This article offers two case studies on religious freedom demonstrating different aspects of the MUI's self-appointed role of national mufti. The first case study demonstrates how the MUI has taken control of the high ground of religious doctrine. Through its response to blasphemy cases and deviant Muslim activities the MUI defines appropriate, orthodox Muslim conduct. The second case study deals with the revised regime of halal food certification. Here the state has sought to bring the MUI back into its embrace, partly as a result of corruption scandals. In doing so, however, Islam continues to be further entrenched in state law and regulation.
Indonesian Islam was said to be deconfessionalized, reflecting the nature of the former authoritarian and bureaucratic state's engagement with various Islamic institutions. The changing role of the MUI demonstrates that the state and law are becoming increasingly confessionalized. This change has significant implications for Indonesia's democratic constitutional framework, evident in what these cases say about the enjoyment of the fundamental right of citizenship.