03/18/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s leading Islamic clerical body, has declared an interfaith marriage between a Catholic man and a Muslim woman invalid. Earlier this month, the couple was married in a Catholic church in Semarang, Central Java. The photos of their wedding soon went viral on social media.
The MUI’s declaration came a few days after the ceremony. Amiryah Tambunan, the organization’s general secretary, cited an edict issued in 2005 by the council stating that interfaith marriages were banned in Indonesia.
In a statement released on March 9, he said, “As a result, the marriage of this couple is invalid and cannot be allowed.”
Human rights groups were swift to condemn this statement, questioning the edict and pointing out that no Indonesian law prohibits interfaith marriages. However, there is some ambiguity in the legal system. For example, a 1974 law on marriage states that while couples should be of the same religion, an interfaith marriage can be valid if conducted according to the laws of religion and the beliefs of both parties.
This was the case with the marriage currently in question. According to Ahmad Nurcholish, a Muslim and the deputy director of the interfaith organization Indonesia Conference on Religion and Peace, the MUI cannot declare the marriage invalid.
“Interfaith marriage is a right for all citizens of legal age and should be respected,” Nurcholish said on March 13. Human rights activists are calling for a revision of the 1974 law to remove any ambiguities and prevent this from happening again.