Is the recent resolution passed by the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) Muktamar on the group Sisters in Islam merely an expression of PAS’ right of free expression? Some say that there was no call to “ban” SIS as such but merely to investigate and rehabilitate / ban only if they are found to be acting against Islamic law. To my mind, PAS has in fact decided that in their minds Sisters in Islam are acting contrary to their view of Islam and has issued a challenge to the National Fatwa Council, which they have previously accused as being UMNO controlled, to prove their Islamic credentials. This is a dangerous game to play, and one that causes disquiet amongst the many who supported PAS not because of their Islamist agenda but because they promised clean and transparent governance. By dragging the Divine into the secular, PAS has themselves invited all and sundry to comment on Islam.

The resolution

I understand that this is the actual resolution passed by the PAS Muktamar:

Menyedari bahawa aliran dan pandangan yang dibawa oleh Sisters in Islam (SIS) boleh mengelirukan masyarakat;

My comment: Is this not already a finding by PAS against SIS that it “can confuse society”?

Menginsafi pendekatan mereka mudah meresapi pemikiran dan mengancam aqidah ummat Islam terutamanya golongan muda dan berpendidikan secular;

My comment: Here, PAS is accusing SIS of “threatening the aqidah” of Muslims, especially the youth and those with a secular education.

Maka, Muktamar PAS Pusat yang bersidang pada hari ini 11 – 13 Jamadilakhir 1430 bersamaan 05-07 Jun 2009 di Stadium Melawati, Shah Alam mengusulkan dan membuat ketetapan:

(a) Mendesak Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan membuat penyelidikan ke atas SIS yang membawa aliran Islam Liberal dan seterusnya mengharamkan pertubuhan tersebut sekiranya terbukti bertentangan dengan syariat Islam serta membuat program pemulihan ke atas ahli-ahlinya.

My comment: Given the explicit statements in the recitals, it is clear that this is a challenge by Pas to the National Fatwa Council. PAS is impliedly saying “We have decided that SIS is a threat to Islam; you should investigate them and if you know your job you must ban them. If you don’t, it proves you are not really Islamic.”

Internal matter for Muslims?

Some have also argued that this is an internal matter for Muslims to sort out themselves, and others should not concern themselves with this. With respect, I think this argument is misconceived.

PAS is a political party. They aspire to form the government of this country. Hence, they are held to a high standard.

Until March 8, 2008, I would never have considered voting for PAS. Many Malaysians, Muslim and non Muslim, were of the same view.

Many of us changed our minds, not because we agreed to the PAS version of an “Islamic State” and the role of religion in government but because the mood of the nation was ABU – Anything But UMNO.

The Barisan Nasional coalition government had proved that after more than 50 years in power, and with the subtle but seismic modifications to the Federal Constitution, our laws and the constitutions of the component bodies, democracy was no longer being served. The level of corruption and cronyism within its component bodies had proven true the oft quoted aphorism of Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I then saw the actions of Menteri Besar Nizar in Perak and was very impressed.

I had a new image of PAS. I began to hope that PAS had come to realise, like the Hindu based BJP in India briefly realised, that they can comply with their religious beliefs by concentrating on the things that matter to all Malaysians – removing corruption, enhancing good governance, ensuring transparency and creating greater space for fundamental liberties.

But then, as usual, PAS spoils it all with this latest farce at their Muktamar.

A similar situation happened when PAS was in control of the Terengganu State Government from 1999-2004. I was particularly impressed with the Terengganu PAS government’s legislation forming an “Ombudsman” as it were – a public complaints mechanism against governmental abuse. But the spoiler was in the name given to the Ombudsman – it was some Arabic name that felt totally alien to me! Why? Why alienate me and all other non Arab speakers? Why must Islamic be Arabic?

Now, I am again soured by PAS. Why “ban” organisations with whom you disagree?

Since PAS espouses an Islamic State, in which all laws must be subject to Syariah, does that mean that if they form the government, and make laws which are based on the Syariah, anyone who criticizes it will be similarly banned or “rehabilitated” – an ominous word. Will anyone who professes Islam and who speaks against PAS legislation be labelled a deviant or apostate and stoned to death, as provided for by the PAS Hudud legislation which is on the statute books in Kelantan and Terengganu?

Yes, there is a gut reaction to distrust PAS on these issues. But that “bias”, as some call it, is based on sound reasons, and based on PAS’ own actions.

If they do not want people to perceive them as dictatorial, they should not be resorting to Mahathirist tactics of calling for a ban on those with whom they disagree.

And if PAS wants to form legislation on the basis of Islamic law, they cannot complain if others delve into Islamic law to debate with them.

By dragging the Divine into the secular, PAS has themselves invited all and sundry to comment on Islam.

* Note: The views here are my personal views. I should, however, disclose that I am part of a legal team acting on behalf of Sisters In Islam in their application for judicial review against a Home Ministry order made in July 2008 banning a book published by SIS in 2005 called “Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism“, a compilation of essays based on research papers prepared for an International Roundtable called “Muslim Women Challenge Religious Extremism – Building Bridges Between Southeast Asia and the Middle East” held in Bellagio, Italy in late 2003.

Shanmuga K sometimes sees a purple banana emerging in his sub-conscious. An article seems to then be magically written. He is @shanmuga_k on Twitter. When he does not see those purple bananas, he practices...

2 replies on “Aiyo, PAS .. whylah? I had such high hopes!”

  1. There is no more sacred/secular divide in our politics now. You are right. If PAS or any other religious group for that matter want to engage in the public square, then they must be prepared for a reasoned discussion of religion and politics.

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