Interfaith marriage is a grey, if controversial, area in legal and cultural terms in Indonesia. So when a Muslim woman and a Catholic man went viral after tying the knot, celebrations of their love were inevitably marred by outrage.
On Sunday, a TikTok user disapprovingly posted photos of the interfaith couple getting married at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in the Krapyak district of Semarang, Central Java. Though the wedding took place at a church, it was immediately apparent that it was an unusual union where Indonesia is concerned, as the bride wore a wedding dress that incorporated a hijab (head covering).
The post has been viewed 1.7 million times as of this article's publication time. While some of us might expect well-wishes for the newlywed couple in the comments section (especially if we have experience in trying to date someone of a different faith in this country), we were quickly reminded that online discourse in Indonesia can be a dark, hateful place.
"My God, what is this? This is one of the signs of the apocalypse," one user commented.
"If that woman is indeed Muslim, then she will commit adultery her whole life after marrying a non-Muslim," another wrote.
"Why did the wedding official allow this? It's clear that [their religions] are different," another protested.
Achmad Nurcholis, an activist for the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP) who served as the couple's pre-marriage counselor for two years, said the wedding took place on Saturday. Out of respect for both of the couple's faiths, two wedding processions were carried out – once according to Catholic traditions, and another in Islamic traditions.
"[Interfaith marriage] is possible because within any religion, there are always opposing views. Some allow it, some forbid it. Those who subscribe to the view that [interfaith marriage] is allowed can go ahead with it," Nurcholis, who also had the honor of being the couple's wedding witness, said.
"I happen to have accompanied some 30 interfaith couples."
Indonesian law is somewhat vague on the validation of interfaith marriages. One clause in the Marriage Law states that a marriage is valid "if conducted according to laws of religion and belief of both parties."
While minority religions in Indonesia may allow the practice, the mainstream belief among Indonesian Muslims is that interfaith marriage is forbidden. In fact, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest Islamic clerical body in the nation, issued a fatwa (religious edict) in 2005 declaring interfaith marriage haram (forbidden).
Legal attempts to separate marriage from religion have failed in the past.