In the past 21 months, DAP had stressed both inside and outside the Barisan Alternative Leadership Council that PAS will need to spell out its position of an Islamic State and its implications on non-Muslim Malaysians in a nation where less than 60 per cent of the population are Muslims and where other religions are strongly represented to convince the entire Malaysian electorate that the political Islam represented by PAS is able to embrace the nature of modern human progress, namely individual freedoms, democratic governance, social tolerance, women’s rights and political competition and compatible with both political pluralism and a plural society like Malaysia.
In the past 21 months, the DAP had taken the initiative to organise two inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogues featuring Nik Aziz to break the shackles of the past of inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-cultural suspicion and distrust to build a new Malaysia based on the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
In my speech at the first dialogue in Kuala Lumpur on 3rd March, 2000, I stressed that PAS must understand and respect the legitimate concerns and opposition of non-Muslims to an Islamic State, not because they are anti-Islam but because of their aspirations for full citizenship rights in their homeland.
In my speech at the second dialogue in Ipoh on 12th August 2000, I raised specifically the question as to whether PAS’ concept of an Islamic state is compatible with democracy as opposition or hostility to democracy in some Islamic quarters range from considering democracy antithetical to Islam to regarding it as 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 ‘religion’ 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 God’s ‘sovereignty’.
“A prominent contemporary Islamic political 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.”
But Nik Aziz was not listening to these questions and concerns, let alone responding or answering them. This is one reason why the DAP had discontinued organising such inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogues.
At a PAS Melaka forum on 25th June 2000, I had specifically posed the questions as to whether the political Islam represented by PAS is compatible with democracy, pluralism, human rights, cultural diversity, women’s rights, development and modernity.
Undoubtedly, among these questions, one of the most salient ones is whether PAS’ Islamic State would replace the present division of Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras with a new dichotomy of Muslims and non-Muslims. But answers to these questions have not been forthcoming, whether to DAP or to the Malaysian people.
Malaysians want to see the end of racial hegemony in Malaysian politics but they do not want it to be replaced by a religious hegemony.