(Ipoh, Saturday): An enemy of Malaysia who wants to rain unprecedented international opprobrium on Malaysia would find it impossible to duplicate the worldwide condemnation following the second criminal trial, conviction and sentence of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday.
The national and international outrage at the outcome of the second Anwar trial had been even more intense than that of the first Anwar trial in April last year when Anwar was jailed for six years.
On Tuesday, Anwar was not only jailed for another nine years, the second jail sentence will only start after Anwar had completed his current six-year sentence, keeping him in jail until 2009 and out of politics and public life until 2014.
The cruel and unconscionable political persecution of Anwar has confirmed that after four decades of nationhood, there is something very dark in the Malaysian national soul which is completely alien to the most rudimentary notions of decency and justice, and this corruption of the national soul must be purged if Malaysians are to hold their heads high inside the country and internationally as citizens of a mature, civil and decent society.
It was precisely because we want to put an end to such rank injustices like the Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng cases, gross abuses of power and to save the Malaysian soul from this great darkness and corruption that for the first time in Malaysian political history, major Opposition parties namely the DAP, PAS, Keadilan and PRM, came together to form the Alternative Front to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
The first step was to be the breaking of the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional in the last general election by ending its uninterrupted parliamentary two-thirds majority - which would have ushered in a paradigm shift in Malaysian politics by unleashing new political forces in the political landscape.
But this was not to be, as Barisan Nasional retained its two-thirds parliamentary majority, largely because of the success of its campaign of fear and falsehoods among the non-Malay electorate, although UMNO suffered unprecedented electoral setbacks losing 32 seats to PAS and Keadilan and its legitimacy as the undisputed representative of the Malays questioned and challenged.
If the non-Malay voters had not been swayed by the Barisan National campaign of fear and falsehoods, particularly over DAPís co-operation with PAS and the Islamic state issue, and had given their electoral support to the Barisan Alternativeís call for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, the political hegemony of the Barisan National would have been broken as the Opposition was only 20 parliamentary seats short of depriving the Barisan National of its two-thirds parliamentary majority.
In the last general election in Peninsular Malaysia, there were 26 parliamentary seats which were won by less than 5% majorities and another 24 seats which were won by 5-10% margins. The Barisan Nasional won 29 of these seats and the Barisan Alternative 21. If there had been a 5-6% swing in favour of the Barisan Alternative in the last general election, and the Barisan Alternative had won all the 29 seats won by the Barisan Nasional, the Barisan Nasionalís political hegemony and parliamentary two-thirds majority would have been broken.
Nothing worries the Barisan Nasional more than the consolidation and maturation of the Barisan Alternative to mount an even more serious challenge to the Barisan Nasional in the next general election, come 2004, especially if the Barisan Alternative have the time to lay to rest the two spectres which the Barisan Nasional had tried to frighten Malaysian voters in the last general elections - on the one hand, that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam which wants to see the destruction of Islam while on the other hand, that PAS is extremist and fanatical and wants to end the religious, cultural and political rights and freedoms of the non-Muslims in Malaysia.
The Barisan Alternative will be a tenable and viable alternative to the Barisan Nasional if we can lay these two spectres to rest and in particular project that the Political Islam represented by PAS is an Islam of tolerance and justice which is fully compatible with democracy, open and accountable government, cultural pluralism, development and modernisation,
But time is not on its side and the battle the Barisan Alternative must fight is not in the future in the general election in 2004 but now, for the Barisan Nasional has already launched a political offensive with the specific purpose to paint PAS as representing a political Islam which is obscurantist, extremist, fanatical, oppressive against women and minorities, incompatible with democracy, human rights, political tolerance, cultural pluralism and antithetical to progress, development and modernisation.
When the DAP decided to team up with the other three opposition parties to form the Barisan Alternative, it was specifically with the common objectives to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
Since the last general election, there had been a deterioration in the multiple crisis afflicting the countryís justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, specially highlighted by the nation's worst crisis of confidence in the accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary - which might have been averted if the Barisan Alternative had succeeded in denying the Barisan Nasional its two-thirds parliamentary majority and ended its political hegemony in last Novemberís general election.
DAP will walk the last mile to further the Barisan Alternative goals of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance while fully upholding Malaysiaís secular system based on the noble values common in the great religions which have made their home in Malaysia.
The Barisan Alternative will not be a tenable and viable alternative to the Barisan Nasional and its goals to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance is doomed to failure if the Barisan Nasional succeeds in its political offensive to paint PAS as representing a political Islam which is obscurantist, extremist, fanatical, oppressive against women and minorities, incompatible with democracy, human rights, political tolerance, cultural pluralism and antithetical to progress, development and modernisation.
This is why the DAP is organising a series of inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogues to debunk, in the shortest possible time, the baseless fears of the non-Malays that DAPís co-operation with PAS would lead to the denial of their cultural and religious rights and freedoms as well as to allay their legitimate concerns about the political Islam represented by PAS and to address their objections to an Islamic state, not because they are anti-Islam but because they insist on their rights as full citizens of a democratic society and not as subjects of a conquered land.
It has been said that in the West the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of violence-prone bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds, and in a way, this is the stereotype image which UMNO and the Barisan Nasional are seeking to stamp on PAS.
Political Islam is not a monolith but covers a whole spectrum of ideas and schools of thought. Presently, there is a great debate raging in the Muslim world about the proper relationship of religion, politics and society, such as the topic tonight, Islam and Democracy.
Opposition, or hostility, to democracy in some Islamic quarters range from considering democracy antithetical to Islam to considering it a Western design against Islam.
Democracy has been denounced as shirk billah (assigning partners with God), on the ground that tawhid (monotheism) entails that legislation is the sole prerogative of God whereas democracy is the rule of the people for the people. Whereas in democracy the legislator is the people, in tawhid God is the legislator. Hence, democracy is shirk (idolatry) because it usurps the right to legislation from the Almighty and offers it to the people.
Democracy has also been attacked as a new Ďreligioní that deifies humans by awarding them the right to legislate without being bound by a superior Divine authority. This argument contends that since democracy is the recognition of the sovereingty of the people, it would have to mean the denial of Godís Ďsovereigntyí.
A prominent contemporary Islamic politcal thinker, Rachid Al-Ghannouchi however regards such Islamist views not only as an obstacle to democratisation, but to progress and development as a whole.
He propounds the concept of ad-dini (the religious, the sacred or the absolute) and as-siyasi (the political, the profane or the relative) and the Faraghat theory - the idea that Islam includes faraghat (i.e.space) or areas left for humans to fill in accordance with the respective needs and exigencies of time and space.
Ghannouchi observes that no disputes ever erupted among the early Muslims in matters pertaining to the first category, ad-dini, that is in matters of `aqida (faith), `ibada (worship) or akhlaq (morality). But, they disagreed over matters pertaining to the second category , as-siyasi; that is on how to administer political affairs, on how to manage disputes and resolve problems pertaining to public office, and on the qualifications and powers of rulers.
These are important and pertinent issues not only to Muslims but to all Malaysians especially with the attack by UMNO and the Barisan Nasional that PAS is not compatible with democracy and is not really committed to the system of parliamentary democracy, but only believed in "one man, one vote, one time" and will use electoral politics to "hijack democracy" as power-sharing is just the strategy and mechanism to achieve the ultimate objective, the establishment of an Islamic State.
It is hoped that that inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious
and inter-civilisational dialogues would be able to throw light on some
of these issues.