Tag Archives: Indonesia

Islamic leaders and Islamic law – a conundrum?

By Christine G Schenk, University of Geneva


Image credit: (c) Christine Schenk

Islamic law and Islamic leaders are often portrayed as a cohesive, inflexible block. But engagements with Islamic law and Islamic leaders are highly diverse as debates and initiatives around Islam, gender and feminism show (see the blog Muslims in Interwar Europe). My article, recently published in The Geographical Journal, highlights the diversity and reflexivity of Islamic leaders. Internal deliberations among Islamic leaders can not only reconcile co-existent laws but also different religious schools of thought in many Muslim societies. These deliberations are particularly important, for example, in legal reforms on family law (see the network Women living under Muslim laws).

The article examines deliberations among Islamic leaders adhering to the Shafi school (Sunni Islam) on family law in Aceh, Indonesia between 2006 – 2008. This reform was particularly contentious as family law regulates, among other duties, marriages and aims to provide legal security, especially to women. But due to nearly 30 years of conflict between the Aceh Free Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) and the Central Government of Indonesia, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, family law was hardly implemented. The civil administration was dormant, while Acehnese communities were governed by Islamic law and customary law.

In the process of legal reform, Islamic leaders considered the regulation of families as an intrusion of state bureaucracy into community affairs. In turn, Islamic leaders resisted calls to administer legal reform in their function as political partners within the Acehnese government. A cross-societal dialogue, facilitated by an aid agency and lobby groups, served to disentangle resistance against such legal reforms through internal deliberation. Consultation and interpretation of Islamic texts, such as the Quran, turned out to be a key element in reconciling different religious schools and co-existent laws.

Debates around gender, human rights and Islam receive pronounced attention in places that have been affected by conflict, crises and/or disaster (further information is available, for example, at Flower Aceh, and Sisters in Islam). My article argues that we need to consider the dynamics of law-making outside of Western democracies to obtain more nuanced understandings of the varieties of legal geographies across the globe.

About the author: Christine Schenk is PhD within the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Geneva. 

books_icon Schenk, C. G. (2016), Islamic leaders and the legal geography of family law in Aceh, Indonesia. The Geographical  Journal. doi:10.1111/geoj.12202

Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x


The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x

Norwegian Problem Solving

By Caitlin Douglas

In exchange for a payment from Norway of US$1 billion, Indonesia has recently pledged to introduce a two year moratorium on deforestation. The action is being undertaken as a climate change initiative. Tropical deforestation releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide but the benefits of maintaining forests extend far beyond carbon sequestration. As  John Kupfler and Scott Franklin describe in the their article in Geography Compass, forests provide many services at the local scale, such as soil stability, erosion control, protection and improvement of air quality, timber and non-timber products. Forests also have important cultural and aesthetic roles.  Whilst Norway’s initiative to take action against tropical deforestation is admirable, and will have tremendous benefits both locally and globally it fails to address what is driving the deforestation in the first place. Kenneth Young notes in his article in Geography Compass that tropical deforestation is often driven by global incentives and policies; therefore, unless these issues are addressed Norway’s initiative may be futile.

Read BBC’s news article

Read Kupfer and Franklin’s article and Kenneth Young’s article in Geography Compass

The impact of natural disasters

By Jenny Lunn

The earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale that struck Chile last weekend affected two million people. It was more than 500 times more powerful than the earthquake that devastated Haiti a few weeks earlier, yet the human toll and infrastructural damage was on a much lesser scale. Chile has a long history of earthquakes and has implemented a range of measures to cope with the hazard. News reports are already claiming that the impact on the Chilean economy will be “limited and short-lived” because the country’s robust economic situation will facilitate a recovery without the need for foreign aid. This is, of course, quite different to Haiti which had no internal capacity to deal with the recent disaster and will be entirely dependent on outside help for many years to come.

The study of natural hazards is not just a matter of physical geography, as Katherine Donovan points out in her article in Area, entitled ‘Doing social volcanology’. She shows how cultural and socio-economic factors have influenced reactions to volcanic hazards in Java, Indonesia. In particular, she focuses on how local traditions and beliefs influence understandings of volcanoes and people’s reactions to eruptions. Disaster planning and mitigation activities need to take this into consideration alongside scientific knowledge and technological inputs. Thus she argues for hazard research to be interdisciplinary and for a range of methodologies to be used.

Thus, in comparing Chile and Haiti, it is not only the physical aspects of the earthquake such as magnitude and epicentre that need analysing in order to understand the different impacts of the disasters, but also factors such as collective social psyche, political capability, legal framework, economic capacity, infrastructural resilience and technological availability.

Read Katherine Donovan’s paper in Area

Read the BBC news article on the economic resilience of Chile

Reacting to Disaster

Indian Ocean Earthquake

By Jenny Lunn

Natural disasters are never far from the news. Over the last 24 hours, we have heard of a tsunami affecting South Pacific islands and an earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia. We usually watch disasters unfold on our TV screens; we sometimes give some money. Mostly we feel completely helpless about a situation far away. Some people are able to respond by travelling to the disaster area to offer their professional skills as doctors, nurses, fire fighters or engineers. But what professional skills can academics bring to such situations?

Catherine Brun’s paper in the Geographical Journal looks at researchers who conducted participatory action research in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami wrought devastation on the fringes of the Indian Ocean. Post-disaster research is essential for understanding how people react to disasters and cope in the aftermath. Such insights are vital for forecasting, planning and mitigating against future disasters. However, the key question is how the research can balance being practical and helpful whilst gathering useful data.

Though referring to research in the aftermath of a disaster, the issues raised by Brun are applicable to social scientists engaged in all kinds of research, as they consider the ethics and responsibility of engagement.

60% worldRead the BBC News item about the South Pacific tsunami

60% worldRead the BBC News item about the Indonesian earthquake

60% worldRead Brun (2009) A geographers’ imperative? Research and action in the aftermath of disaster in Geographical Journal