Regulation of religion and the religious: The politics of judicialization and bureaucratization in India and Indonesia

Yüksel Sezgin, Mirjam Künkler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This article compares the strategies through which Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Indonesia have regulated religion and addressed questions of what constitutes the religious in the post-independence period. We show that the dominant approach pursued by the Indian state has been one of judicialization-the delegation of religious questions to the high courts-while in Indonesia it has predominantly been one of bureaucratization-the regulation of religious issues by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Contrary to the expectation that judicialization devitalizes normative conflicts while bureaucratization, more frequently associated with authoritarian politics, locks these conflicts in, we show that these expectations have not materialized, and at times, the effects have been reverse. Engaging the literatures on judicialization and on bureaucratization, we argue that what determines the consequences of the policy toward religion is less the choice of the implementing institution (i.e., the judiciary or bureaucracy) than the mode of delegation (vertical versus horizontal) which shapes the relationship between the policy-maker and the institution implementing it. Bureaucrats, judges, and elected politicians in multicultural societies around the world encounter questions of religious nature very similar to those that authorities in India and Indonesia have faced. How they address the challenge of religious heterogeneity has a profound impact on prospects of nation-building and democratization. It is therefore imperative that the consequences of the policy toward religion, and even more so the consequences of political delegation, be studied more systematically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-478
Number of pages31
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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