Abstract

This article focuses on the position and role of the Majelis Permusyawaratan Ulama (MPU; Consultative Assembly of Ulema) in the process of re-Islamization, in the sense of Sharīʿatization, of Aceh in post-New Order Indonesia. Sharīʿatization in Aceh is a complex issue, related not only to religious but also political contestation amongst various elements of Acehnese society. Although a political project of the central government to draw popular support away from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which did not have Islamic agenda, it was formulated mainly by official ulema, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI; Indonesian Council of Ulema), especially from 1998 to 2001, and after 2001 by the MPU. ) Despite the MPU's significant role in the initial phase of Sharīʿatization, and despite the privileged status given to it by the Law on Aceh Governance and local bylaws, the MPU was unable to sustain its prominent role. The MPU was frustrated, this article argues, by the actions of other agents—‘Sharīʿa state apparatuses’ (especially the Sharīʿa Office); ‘secular state apparatuses’ (especially governor and regional parliament); and Islamic and ‘secular’ political parties—during the negotiation and renegotiation of what kind of official Sharīʿa should be implemented. Thus, over the last decade Sharīʿa implementation at the official level has been defined mainly by both Sharīʿa state apparatuses (including the MPU) and secular state apparatuses, rather than by independent dayah-based ulema and Islamist groups. This situation is owed in part to the marginalization of independent ulema and the absence of a radical Islamist movement in Aceh at the beginning of the Sharīʿatization process.

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