Rumah KitaB, with support from the Oslo Coalition, has launched the draft of the book “Children’s Rights in Islam: An Initiative from Positive Law, Fiqh, Hadith and the Qur’an.” The event, attended by 74 online and offline participants, was held at Hotel Aston, Bogor, on 8 February 2022. The event opened at 1 p.m. local time by presenting the speakers, Lies Marcoes and Lena Larsen as representatives of Rumah KitaB and the Oslo Coalition and Dr. Faqih Abdul Kodir as research coordinator and writer of the book, and several commentators: Rita Pranawati from KPAI (Indonesian Commission for Protection of Children), Dr. Maria Ulfa Anshor as a representative of KUPI (Indonesian Female Ulama Congress), and Kiai Ulil Abshar Abdalla MA as an expert in study of classical religious texts.

The event also presented the researchers who are also contributing writers of the book, Rifa Tsamrotus Sa’adah, Achmat Hilmi and Jamaluddin Mohammad, while Fadilla Dwianti appeared via Zoom along with several other participants, considering the health protocol restrictions due to the rise in Covid-19 exposures.

In her opening remarks, the Director of Rumah KitaB, Lies Marcoes Natsir, provided the background and context of the activity. “For the past two years, the Oslo Coalition has supported us in research on NDIT (New Directions in Islamic Thought), which is basically in line with the programs we are running, promoting protection of children’s rights,” she said.

Lies also explained that for eight years now, Rumah KitaB has been working in advocacy for prevention of child marriage. However, she added, the issue of child marriage is still in a gray area, not explicit enough. Yet in fact, based on the research conducted by Rumah KitaB, it is already very clear and obvious that child marriage is a form of violence which in reality causes a great deal of damage.

“Therefore, through this book, we want to build arguments on how prevention of child marriage is supported both by positive law and by Islamic law. The book we are launching today is an initiative to support and reinforce that desire,” Lies said.

Lies added that in connection with Islam, many people assume there is a dispute between conservative and progressive views in Islam with regard to child protection. But when this research was conducted, it found there is in fact a fundamental problem: that for both the conservatives and the progressives, with regard to protection of children, the subject is the same, the interests of adults, while the rights of children are merely an addition. At the same time, the approach offered by “secularists” who have developed children’s rights does not openly consider the views from religious groups who feel that  children’s rights have already been resolved through religious discourse.

This was also acknowledged by Lena Larsen, who said in her remarks as Director of the Oslo Coalition that there has been a conflict between belief and the values that are held when looking at the reality of development and needs of modern humankind. In her view, “the duty of religious leaders is to create harmony between the religious values they uphold and the spirit of development of the age, which demands equality, justice, and pluralism.”

As the chief writer of the book, Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir offered a construct on how to discover and stress the matters of principle in fulfillment of children’s rights, whether derived from the norms of positive law or from cultural norms based on Islamic law. He offered a collaborative reflexive approach by acknowledging that each of these sets of norms has capital to develop protection and rights centered on the interests of children.

First, Faqih said, we need to reflect and be open to the things that have up to now been constraints and obstacles in the fulfillment of children’s rights, both those found in positive law and in Islamic law (fiqh, the Qur’an and Hadith). The next stage is to conduct constructive collaboration among all the prevailing norms from both positive law and religion based on the principal matters, to cover up the weaknesses existing in any of the norms, through the initiatives available in any of the norms, as a comprehensive effort for fulfillment of children’s rights.

Ibu Rita Pranawati from KPAI expressed her appreciation for the efforts made by Rumah KitaB and the issues raised in this research, which are also problems faced by the child protection institution. In her view, discussion needs to be added on several recent topics that are not addressed either in positive law or in cultural and religious norms.

Maria Ulfa Anshor, as a commentator in the discussion, also expressed appreciation for the entire book. She agreed that children’s rights in Islam focus too much on the micro level, as found in Rumah KitaB’s research. Therefore, she agrees that the study needs to be expanded further to the meso and macro levels. As mentioned in the theory of the child protection ecosystem as described by Bronfenbrenner in The Ecology of Human Development, children’s growth and development consists of micro, meso, and macro levels.

Meanwhile, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalah, we need to be able to position ourselves as Muslim intellectuals when faced with the conventions produced by the UN. “Our position as Muslim intellectuals is not merely to confirm the conventions produced by the UN. We must also be able to go beyond and provide new interpretations of the conventions. When we write this book, we have intellectual autonomy. Experiences from outside developed countries also make a contribution,” he noted.

And from the government, Ibu Rohika Kurniadi Sari from the Deputy for Child Development of the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection also expressed her appreciation and is awaiting the final results of the study to address the problems of child protection caused by the inadequacy of studies on legal norms and religious or cultural norms.

All participants were enthusiastic and willingly took part until the event ended at 15.30 local time. [JM]

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