Alarm bells ringing for non-Muslims


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 16 Nov 2003

By WONG CHUN WAI

NON-MUSLIMS have good reasons to be sceptical with PAS leaders. They simply do not trust the Islamist party no matter how good the Islamic state blueprint sounds on paper. 

A year ago, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat told participants at a dialogue with the Council of Churches in Malaysia that the party did not believe in an Islamic state but only in an Islamic community. 

Like all politicians, who speak different things to different audiences, the Kelantan Mentri Besar said he was practical enough to accept that Malaysia was a democratic plural society with a huge non-Muslim population. 

Recently, Malaysians saw and heard PAS vice-president Datuk Mustapha Ali on BBC’s Hardtalk that the party had never mentioned anything about an Islamic state and that the term was used by the media to frighten the non-Muslims. 

But last week, party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang unveiled plans for an orthodox Islamic state with the syariah laws replacing the Federal Constitution. 

The 53-page document, aimed at wooing Muslims, clearly showed that Western-style democracy had no place in Malaysia if PAS forms the next Federal Government. 

Hadi’s commitment to set up an Islamic state seems to contradict what the other leaders have said, although most non-Muslims have long questioned the sincerity of PAS. 

Like all election manifestos, the Islamic state blueprint is no different.  

It sounds good but voters have to take all these with a pinch of salt.  

PAS leaders can be religious people but strip away the flowing robes, turbans and beards, they are politicians only interested in power. 

Promising to protect the cultural and religious rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic state, PAS has conveniently ignored the controversies the Terengganu Government had created in infringing on the rights of the Chinese and Indian communities. 

The state government banned the two communities from holding functions which involve dancing between the sexes.  

In the case of the Indians, who celebrate Deepavali, it banned a cultural dance because it involved female and male performers. 

Even more bizarre was the state mullahs' refusal to tolerate social dancing organised for senior citizens, claiming it was against the interest of the majority-Muslim population in the state. So much for protecting the rights of non-Muslims. 

In Kelantan, the cultural rights of Malays have been trampled with the PAS state government defining what is Islamic and not Islamic for the population.  

As a result, the richness of Malay culture such as wayang kulit and mak yong have suffered greatly as Nik Aziz pursued his Arabic bias. 

But more alarming is the PAS assertion, in its Islamic State Blueprint, which emphasised that to criticise the concept is to criticise the religion.  

In other words, to criticise the party and its leaders would be tantamount to blasphemy and treason. 

Using the logic of PAS leaders, how can that be compatible with democracy, which allows the people to question constitutional laws. There are other areas of concern, one of them that the Prime Minister must be a Muslim. 

We know that in Malaysia, a Muslim Malay will be the chief executive for simple practical political reasons but this has never been written into the constitution because our founding fathers and up to the present government respect the constitutional rights of every Malaysian. 

In the case of PAS, it has barred non-Muslims from becoming prime minister. No one would be surprised if non-Muslims are eventually stopped from becoming chief minister as well. 

After all, it is the policy of PAS not to field non-Muslim candidates. At one time, the party toyed with the idea of having non-Muslims as associate members but it was scrapped when the grassroots protested. In fact, the party cannot even accept women candidates. 

Then there is the irony of two sets of laws, one for Muslims and another for non-Muslims. For argument’s sake, what happens if a non-Muslim woman was raped by a Muslim? The syariah law requires three credible witnesses. Where on earth can a non-Muslim victim prove her case against a Muslim rapist, who would opt for syariah laws, unlike the present setup which has sufficient protection for rape victims, regardless of their faith.  

But more than that, PAS’ argument that the western model is bad does not hold water.  

The Transparency International 2003 Corruption Perception Index, for example, did not have a place in the top 25 for any of the OIC member countries.  

In fact, more than half, mostly Arab and African countries, are ranked in the last 21 countries out of 133 countries. 

Saudi Arabia, for example, where elections do not exist, is ranked 46th while Sudan, which PAS sees as a model, is 106th.  

It might interest PAS to know that Indonesia and Egypt, where Muslims form the majority, consider themselves secular countries. 

Finally, Malaysians still do not know how PAS intends to manage the country’s economic development if it forms the next Federal Government but as of now, the alarm bells are ringing for non-Muslims.  

 

o Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my  

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