Law, Religion, and Decolonization

This series aims to explore the roles of colonialism and decolonization in the interaction of law and religion.

Religion and religious institutions can be employed by the state to support its imperial expansion and facilitate the loyalty and cultural homogenization of colonized territories and populations. Historically, these processes are often combined with proselytizing the imperial religion. They can, however, also preserve some religious freedom or autonomy for the domestic population, as Stanislav Panin discusses regarding Russia’s colonization of Siberia and the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in that colonization.


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Decolonizing the Indonesian Penal Code

Dicky Sofjan is a core doctoral faculty in the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), located in the Graduate School of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), in Yogyakarta.

Indonesia was colonized by the Netherlands through its first ever powerful multinational corporation trading company called the Dutch East India Company for more than 350 years. Although the colonization was far from complete and comprehensive—as Indonesia is notably the world’s largest archipelagic nation, comprising 17,000 islands and occupying three time zones—the laws of the land at the time were established primarily to serve the interest of the colonial masters and to guarantee their political longevity and worldwide economic empire.


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Communist Law and the Protection of Religious Freedom in Poland

Piotr Szymaniec is a professor at and the director of the Institute of Socio-Legal Studies, Angelus Silesius University of Applied Sciences, in Wałbrzych (Poland).

For 123 years, between 1795 and 1918, maps of Europe contained no independent Polish state. In the second half of the nineteenth century, former Polish lands were subject to quasi-colonial policy (with the exception of Galicia, which gained autonomy within Austria-Hungary). This policy was reflected in enforceable law; legal orders of all states ruling Polish lands defined crimes against religion, the most serious of which was blasphemy. The Austrian Criminal Code of May 27, 1852; the German Code of May 31, 1870; and the Russian Code of 1903 all introduced the crime of blasphemy.


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