Religion and Constitutional Practices in Asia


Participants of the conference on ‘Religion and Constitution Practices in Asia’. Front row (from left): Dr Farzana Haniffa (University of Colombo), Ms Ayesha Wijayalath (NUS), Dr Melissa Crouch (University of New South Wales), Research Fellow Dr Dian A.H. Shah (NUS Law), Professor Radhika Coomaraswamy (ICES) and Dr Eugénie Mérieau (University of Goettingen); second row (from left): Professor Shauna Van Praagh (McGill University), Dr Shamshad Pasarlay (Herat University), Dr Alfitri (State Institute of Islamic Studies Samarinda, Indonesia), Associate Professor Arif Jamal (NUS Law), Post-doctoral Fellow Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw (NUS Law), Associate Professor Benjamin Schonthal (University of Otago), Dr Mario Gomez (ICES), Mrs Gisela Elsner (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung) and Ms Pham Thi Thanh Huyen (NUS); back row (from left): Mr Gehan Gunatilleke (University of Oxford), Assistant Professor Rehan Abeyratne (The Chinese University of Hong Kong), Dr Matthew Nelson (SOAS, University of London), Mr Raphael Pangalangan (University of Philippines), Mr Shamsul Falaah (University of Auckland) and Associate Professor Ameya Balsekar (Lawrence University)


The ways in which religion interacts with and influences law and policy-making have become a topic of growing significance. They raise questions, among others, about managing legal and religious pluralism; on how religion is utilised as a tool for social and political mobilisation; and on how different countries approach state-citizen relations in matters involving religion.

This research project, ‘Religion and Constitutional Practices in Asia’, brings together a group of seasoned and emerging scholars from a variety of jurisdictions to examine how religion informs constitutional practice and development in twelve Asian countries, each with different constitutional arrangements on religion.

The ‘Religion and Constitutional Practices in Asia’ conference jointly organised by the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), was held on 9 and 10 November 2017 at ICES in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The conference was supported by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the Ford Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The conference attracted over 40 local and international participants, in addition to 20 presenters and discussants. Some of the topics discussed include – the relationship between religious and secular authorities in a state; the operation of religious personal laws; and the importance of social and political contexts in assessing the impact of constitutional recognition (and non-recognition) of religion.

A special roundtable discussion featuring Professor Andrew Harding LL.M. ’84 (NUS Law), Professor Radhika Coomaraswamy (Emeritus Fellow at ICES and Member of the Constitutional Council of Sri Lanka), and Dr Asanga Welikala (Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law) was held on the last day of the conference.

Two recently-published monographs – Constitutions, Religion and Politics in Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka by Research Fellow Dr Dian A. H. Shah (NUS Law) and Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law: The Pyrrhic Constitutionalism of Sri Lanka by Associate Professor Benjamin Schonthal (University of Otago) – were launched at the conference.


Research Fellow Dr Dian A.H. Shah (NUS Law), workshop convenor and Principal Investigator and Dr Mario Gomez (Executive Director of ICES) giving the Opening Remarks.


Participants and observers at the conference.


Associate Professor Arif Jamal (NUS Law) as a discussant at the panel session on ‘Islam and the Constitution’.


Associate Professor Arif Jamal (NUS Law) as a discussant at the panel session on ‘Islam and the Constitution’.


Professor Andrew Harding LL.M. ’84 (NUS Law) delivering his analysis during the Special Roundtable Discussion panel, alongside Professor Radhika Coomaraswamy (ICES) and Dr Asanga Welikala (Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law).


Research Fellow Dr Dian A.H. Shah (NUS Law) presenting a copy of her newly published book, ‘Constitutions, Religion and Politics in Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka’ to Dr Mario Gomez (Executive Director of ICES) at the soft launch of her book at the conference.

 

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