"In a well-functioning democracy, the state constitution is considered more important than God's holy book, whichever holy book that may be, and God matters only in your private life."
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali (The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam)
COMMENT I find it extremely funny that PAS finds the time and opportunity to pray for the demise of Umno and BN but has to hold numerous "councils" before they can decide to take action against those errant local council "saboteurs" that DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng seems to think are jeopardising the fragile "secular" alternative alliance.
I mean surely PAS could spare a prayer for God's wrath against those within their ranks who would use Islam for nefarious Umno purposes. I always get a kick out of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's (right) justification that the Umno demise prayer was in keeping with Islamic principles that allowed such a prayer to be recited when one felt "oppressed". Does anyone else see the irony in this?
Moreover, this whole ‘saboteur' theory is a fair enough assumption in this period of political war. What is disturbing is that nobody in the alliance has come out strongly for the alternative theory, which is that there are people in PAS who reject this ‘separate but equal' masquerade of secularism and really subscribe to the ‘hudud for all' belief.
An honest response from PAS should have been that they reject the application of Islamic laws on non-Muslims as per their opposition compact and all such laws are void ab initio concerning those "caught" in the Islamic net. In other words, legal wrangling be damned (or at least figured out later) in favour of outright political secular rhetoric.
Spare those of us who actually subscribe to the idea of secularism (that the oppositional forces claim to advocate) all this drama about reaching ‘consensus' and discussing the issue with religious councils.
However, PAS finds this extremely difficult to do. When they are not displaying their flaming extremist colours when they go on their morality crusades or attempting to differentiate themselves from Umno morality crusades, they are playing lip service to the tenets of moderation and secularism that they know their supporters, both Muslim and non-Muslim, don't have much allegiance to, what with the march to Putrajaya and all.
If PAS could find a legal loophole in its Automatic Enforcement System (AES) crusade, surely they could find one in their religious text or the glorious Islamic traditions/history (we constantly keep hearing about) that advocates secularism for Islamic entities that find themselves in multi-religious compacts.
Difficult balancing job
PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali (one of the few politicians in this country that I hold in high regard because of the extremely difficult balancing job he is required to perform) explanation that the ‘KB Four' was not related to syariah law is a copout.
The policing of morality in a country, which has Islam as its official religion, does not have the luxury of falling back on legal technicalities of disparate indecency (sic) laws which interpretation is complex in a multicultural/religious country with differing standards of morality.
These kinds of acts have occurred in Umno-influenced municipal council edicts and when it had, Umno had been barraged with venom of how they allow their Islamic preoccupations to override non-Muslim sensitivities.
In addition, since when in this country does "indecent" behaviour cover unisex hair cutting salons? I get it. I really do. For decades, the moral police have harassed young Muslims couples. Nobody, certainly not the non-Malays, had anything to say about it but make jokes at the expense of their fellow Malaysians. We were warned that we should not "interfere" in the affairs of the Muslims, since their laws did not "touch" us. Except it did.
If Gerakan wants to challenge this so-called "indecency" by-law or whatever law the municipal council felt the need to apply, I say more power to them. It is all a big drama anyway but I for one would like to understand if Pakatan states would adopt such measures in states that are supposed to be governed by a secular coalition.
The political parties (Gerakan, where were you all these years?), which were supposed to maintain the ‘separate but equal' delusions, did nothing to halt the Arabisation process except to see if they could profit from it.
PAS always confined to the wilderness and without a taste of real power were content to play out their Islamic preoccupations in their own backyard. However, the scenario has changed. PAS is a power player in national politics with a credible chance of someday being part of an alliance which could win federal power.
Maybe there are saboteurs or maybe we should interpret what Kelantan state executive councillor Takiyuddin Hassan said about certain by-laws allowing non-Muslims to be charged with indecency (much like what happened in certain non-Muslim ‘indecency' cases, under the Umno watch) as a period of desensitising. The aim of this period is that non-Muslims get into the habit of thinking that the same Islamic standards applicable to Muslims apply to them too.
In addition, yes, The Star is supposed to be a MCA propaganda organ but it is useless and juvenile decrying this when this is politics as usual everywhere in the world. Political parties have their propaganda organs and if the said propaganda are effective, it points more to the weakness of the targets of such attacks and their inability to counter such attacks.
DAP plays religious card, too
Even my piece on PAS and the middle ground could be considered some sort of PAS apologia (my well-known affection for this party cultivated in a bygone era that was drenched with radicals now cauterised from the fold).
I throw around the term "appeasers" to political parties that I do not support - MCA, MIC, etc - as a cautionary tale against Umno but the reality is, that in the strange bed fellows politics which is the alliance of my choice, the term "enablers" could very well be used against the DAP and PKR.
Well more against DAP because let's face facts, PKR is still in its ‘journey man' phase and until it can command a percentage of voters without the influence of the other two time-tested political parties, it will remain the glue that binds the behemoths together and nothing else.
Do not get me wrong, I do not belittle this role and if PKR can survive without the Anwar factor (and I am hopeful that it can), it heralds the shape of things to come, as far as multiracial parties go. However, DAP has positioned itself as the ‘champion' against Islamic provocations used by Umno but also (and let us never forget this) by PAS. That is the deal.
Penang BN chief's Teng Chang Yeow query is Penang heading towards Islamisation is rather idiotic. No Teng, the whole of Malaysia has been in an era of Islamisation, thanks to you and your comrades in BN. What the DAP is doing is merely enabling their Islamic counterparts to carry on this sub rosa process in lieu of Umno.
The DAP's upping of the religious affairs coffers from RM12.5 million in 2008 to RM64 million in 2012, as evidence of how the Malay community is not marginalised, is extremely shallow thinking but not surprising in the quest for the Malay/Muslim vote.
CM Lim Guan Eng rambles on how "the Malays are not angry we give money to Chinese vernacular schools, and the Chinese are not angry that the Muslim affairs council are getting money for their activities". So let me get this straight. The Chinese get money for education and the Malays get money for their ‘Islamic affairs'.
Moreover, how exactly is this encouraging ‘secularism' or better yet, does anyone else finds it queer that an administration that advocates secularism is busy handing out money to one religious group and not the others?
Furthermore, why is it the best evidence of helping the Malays is only through financing their religious institutions? More importantly, since this is a need-based allocation, who monitors how the funds are used and what they are used for?
When groups like the Sisters in Islam draw attention to the fact that hudud is discriminatory and unconstitutional or when academics spell out the reality that syariah favours the rich and powerful, where do you think these Islamic ideas are promulgated?
Sisters in Islam (who are the favoured punching bags of PAS) are told to get with the programme and vote for the opposition. However, the most influential of opposition parties is raising the allowances of religious teachers, who most probably towed the Umno line but who would most likely switch to the PAS tune now that a better deal is offered.
Where, dear readers, do you think all those ideas that the SIS find anathema are being spawned?
Sounding the alarm bell
All these little PAS provocations manufactured or not, which is lost in the deluge of Umno corruption is slowly building up. The MCA, which I have no allegiance to, is not a credible advocate for sounding the alarm bell of Islamic transgression on secular territory merely because they appeased their Umno warlords for decades. Dissing the disingenuous messenger is acceptable but ignoring the message is outright stupid.
Let us be honest here. All this faux ‘muhibbah' displays of non-Muslim politicians garbed in Islamic attire swooning about in mosques, is a one-way street meant to desensitise the maybe opposition-leaning ummah. You will not get any Muslims (certainly not in this country and certainly not politicians) dressing up in the ‘others' ethnic finery glad handling in their places of worship.
The realpolitik is that when you are in bed with an Islamic party, the best you could hope for is a ‘separate but equal' policy. After all this drama, the licensing terms involving hair salons owned by non-Muslims in Kelantan has been postponed. It really should not have been an issue in the first place.
At least Takiyuddin is honest enough to admit that the decision to "postpone" the implementation of the licensing terms is an election tactic to pacify non-Muslim voters.
Karpal Singh (right) seems to be the only one holding up the DAP's end of deal in a consistent uncompromising manner. Of these latest provocations and the quest for Putrajaya, he says "However that the objective cannot, and must not, mean sacrificing principle at the altar of political expediency. The DAP is committed to opposing any attempt to extend Islamic law to non-Muslims, whether directly or indirectly."
Do not blame PAS for not holding up its end of the deal when the other parties continue enabling the regime from Kelantan (and those within the Muslim community committed to the idea of a Islamic state, a harsher version of Umno's?) merely because the throne is within reach.
Losing the secular game? We have not even been playing it with any real conviction.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.