Research Paper on MUI – The Unsuccessful Bureaucratization of Islam in Indonesia

During my graduate studies I took an independent study module on Political Islam and Governance. My paper was titled “Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI): The Unsuccessful Bureaucratization of Islam in Indonesia”.

In my paper, I argued that the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Council of Ulama – MUI) illustrates the case of an unsuccessful effort to bureaucratize Islam under the state. The bureaucratization effort was unsuccessful because the establishment of the quasi-official MUI has been the endeavor of Soeharto particularly to use the ulama to legitimize his New Order regime and its government policies, but MUI during the New Order period has never been really controlled by the state and after 1998 it has become more independent in its stance. To a certain extent, MUI in its recent development has also become a player to reckon with in regard to the Islamization of the state.

My argument would firstly be based on the understanding of the bureaucratization of Islam and why this was the necessary approach taken by the government in the early phase of post-independence. Based on the writing of other scholars who have closely examined the fatwas and tausiyahs issued by MUI, I then demonstrate how MUI has gradually distanced itself away from the state and have made efforts to appease the ummah (community of believers). Last but not least, I will explain why MUI serves as the venue for contestation in the future trajectory of political Islam in Indonesia, as it shapes the agenda of the state instead of the other way around.

You can download the paper here. Since this paper was done in 2012, it has not been updated to reflect the current developments, but in the purpose of policy research and constructive engagement, I am open for feedback and discussion.