Have Non-Muslims Abandoned PAS? Or Has PAS abandoned the non-Muslims?

By Farish A. Noor ~ October 23rd, 2009. Filed under: TOM_Main, The Other Malaysia.

It has been observed by some that during the recent Eidul Fitri open house held by PAS, the number of non-Malays and non-Muslims who attended the gathering could be counted ‘on one hand’. That this deplorable turn-out has been lamented by some supporters of PAS is understandable, considering the fact that PAS has made many attempts to reach out to the non-Malay and non-Muslim voters of the country as part of its campaign to re-design itself as an Islamic party that is open to all.

Yet as it is with the case of the cosmetic shake-ups we have seen recently in UMNO, the same can be said of PAS and its commitment to multiculturalism in Malaysia. Malaysians of all walks of life and ethno-religious backgrounds are now asking the same question: Which is the real PAS? The PAS that is represented by the moderate progressives made up of the likes of Husam Musa, Khalid Samad, Hatta Ramli, Dzulkefly Ahmad? Or the PAS that is led by conservatives like Mustafa Ali, Hassan Ali, Nashruddin Mat Isa and the like?

Judging by the PAS general assembly elections earlier this year, it would seem that the moderates in PAS have been effectively marginalised within their own party. Coming after five years of ineffective rule under the ineffectual leadership of former Prime Minister Badawi, Malaysia has reached a point where inter-religious and inter-communal dialogue, respect and accomodation is needed more than ever. Half a decade of Badawi’s leadership has dished us a sordid serving of ethno-nationalist discourse accompanied by the waving of kerises in public, an overheated public domain wracked with communal distrust, an agitated public where minority concerns are being articulated as never before and an overall lack of faith in the political leadership in the country.

In the midst of all this, we need to remember that the election results of 8 March 2008 were a resounding rejection of the misguided politics of the Badawi era, and a call for change and consistency. PAS hopped on the same Pakatan Rakyat bandwagon with the promise of reform and democratisation, and it was on that basis that it received the support of the non-Muslims of the country. For the umpteenth time, we repeat this claim: The vote swing in 2008 was NOT an endorsement of an Islamic state to be slipped in through the back door.

Yet over the past one and a half years, what have we seen? Hasan Ali’s unilateralism in Selangor has cost PAS the goodwill and trust it took the party years to cultivate, and his deafening silence over issues such as the death of Beng Hock and SELCAT lent the impression that the leaders of the Islamic party are more concerned about the sale of beer, courting couples and the bottom of Ms Beyonce Knowles than the political future of the country. Furthermore some - though not all - of PAS’s leaders have also remained mum over recent controversies such as the ‘cow head’ protest in Selangor; and the treatment of minority groups such as the Ahmadis in Selangor as well. So in the midst of all this, it is hardly surprising if the Malaysian public is now asking: ‘will the real PAS please stand up?’

PAS should remember that in the current climate of Malaysian politics where the UMNO-led Federal government is attempting a serious overhaul of its political praxis and discourse, it too needs to change and reform with the times we live in. Gone are the days where empty Islamic rhetoric and promises of paradise will win PAS votes. Moreover, PAS today has to live and work in a Malaysian society where the Malaysian electorate are more connected, clued-up and informed than ever before thanks to better communications and information technology.

One is reminded of the rumblings and grumblings in PAS in the early 2000s, when some of the more hot-headed members of the party were seen complaining about the non-Muslims and non-Malays of the country following the elections of 1999. In his book UMNO Tidak Relevan (2000), the PAS writer Hussein Yaakub then wrote:

“Keadaan ini jelas menunjukkan bahawa orang Cina tidak mempunyai pendirian tetap dalam politik dan mereka boleh ditarik ke sana ke mari oleh pemimpin-pemimpin dalam masyarakat Cina yang ada kepentingan peribadi di negara ini. Benarlah apa yang dikatakan oleh ahli perniagaan Cina bahawa masyarakat Tionghua lebih mementingkan keamanan dan perniagaan daripada segala-galanya. Ini bererti, orang-orang Cina memikirkan soal wang, cari makan dan kekayaan sahaja tampa memikirkan soal moral, maruah dan keadilan.” (pg. 120)

In the same book, Hussein Yaakub also registered the derogatory comments made by other PAS leaders immediately before and after the 1999 election. One leader, Haji Malik Yusof (PAS state assemblyman for Tahan, Pahang), stated: ‘Saya melihat orang Cina tidaklah begitu terikat dengan kepartian sangat. Mereka hanya hendak aman dan boleh berniaga.’ (pg. 121) Few of these PAS leaders appeared to have considered the negative effects of their own comments, and the consequences on Malay–Chinese and Muslim–non-Muslim relations in the country.

PAS today has to realise that it cannot have its cake and eat it. PAS may want to entertain its aspirations to be a national party, but to be a national party means living with the realities of multiculturalism in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. No, a substantial section of the Malaysian public does not want to see public executions, floggings and amputations in public: We are more concerned about good governance and transparency and the rule of law instead. If and when PAS forgets this, and starts going on its holier-than-thou moral bandwagon, it will invariably lose the support of many of us. And before PAS starts sulking in the corner, PAS’s leaders need to remember: It was not the Malaysian electorate that abandoned PAS, but PAS that abandoned us.

7 Responses to Have Non-Muslims Abandoned PAS? Or Has PAS abandoned the non-Muslims?

  1. Lee Khen Tat

    Dr. Farish,

    I totally agree with your view on PAS. But it seems like as long as the top leadership was controlled by the hardcore PAS leaders from T’ganu and Selangor namely, it will be a big challenge for PAS. You have my highest respect and i will never miss your weekly column (in Sin Chew) and books written by you.

  2. forestbear

    Dear Farish

    ‘It was not the Malaysian electorate that abandoned PAS
    that abandoned us.’ How true. And the by-election in Bagan
    Pinang is a reflection of that statement.

    The next would be PKR if Tian Chua were to be disqualified
    by the Malaysian kangaroo court and a by-election is held
    in Batu.

    I would campaign to vote against PKR to let Anwar Ibrahim
    know that we have been patient enough with him in respect
    of his runaway underlings, not least the I am Muslim first
    Zulklifli Nordin, not to mention others like Azmin Ali and Wee
    Choo Keong.

  3. T-Boy

    I have a suspicion, like most mother cats with first litters, PAS is a party that eats its own progressives.

    I mean, seriously. Isn’t this the same sort of crap that PAS went through during the 70s, when the ulema faction took over from the leftists?

  4. mycuntree

    PAS should be fully aware that most of the votes for them during the last GE were anti-BN votes and not pro-PAS votes. They cannot be so naive to think that they have suddenly won over the heart and minds of all the anti-BN voters. The behavior of a number of PAS leader is actually a good thing…… for that is the true colors of PAS.

    Non muslims, if they can have a choice at all, will never agree or support an Islamic state in Malaysia. That would be religious suicide for any non-muslim. If the choice is between UMNO/BN and PAS, maybe I would rather submit a spoil vote, to sent out the right message.

  5. Ex Neutral

    At one count they are overjoyed with the excellent result after GR12 thinking wow we are one of the biggest party in Malaysia not realising that a big portion of the votes comes from the non-malaysl. It’s real fact that a lot of non-malays voted PAS in, in the wave of change, reform and democracy that PR has offered and promised. A big portion also voted PAS bcos anyone except umno.
    Well I can tell PAS that at least 1/3 of my group at least is sure that they will not vote PAS next GE, thanks to Hassan, Hadi and gang. To these guys carry on with your show and you will lose even more. Trusted them to go fight umno, they went in cohoots with them trying to form their own govt. They tried in S’gor, then the unity govt. Can’t they realise that PR means consensus,discussions and sacrifice. A good example is in Perak, DAP has the majority but PAS was the MB. So can they please be more rational.

  6. om7

    As a non -muslim I must say that I was very afraid of PAS initially but my disgust of race politics within BN very easily overpowered my fear of PAS. Since GE12 I was very impressed with PAS and heard lots of positive things concerning Tuan Guru’s moderate lifestyle and his respect towards the beliefs of non-muslims. However, the sad reality is that not everyone in PAS can emulate this great leader. Politicians the likes of Hassan Ali, Nasharuddin and so on have betrayed our trust. I cannot understand why they would want to combine forces with UMNO the very party they have criticised and mocked openly. This clearly shows that politicians like these do not deserve anything from us as they are like “LALANG”, unable to stand their ground and struggle for their convictions. If this is the case then I will never vote for PAS as they are even worse than BN. The one thing this country does not need are indecisive politicians who don’t know what they stand for. At least UMNO knows what it stands for although I may not agree 100% with it. Wavering leaders can only bring destruction and chaos.

  7. badrul

    It does not defies logic actually. The food and premise of the function is sub standard as compared to what UMNO can offer. It has nothing to do with politics when u talk about open houses. Malaysians are smart people..they know where they could get good food…and definitely not at PAS open house. Lift the veil and see the reality of it please. Remember that it is the season to be jolly…please put politics aside when it comes to open houses.

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