PAS deputy president and Terengganu Mentri Besar, Abdul Hadi Awang has reiterated in Marang yesterday that once an Islamic State is established, apart from certain specific matters where non-Muslims can apply their own laws, non-Muslims will be subject to Islamic laws affecting public civic interests.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with new Muslim converts at Bukit Payong civic hall in Terengganu, Hadi said that the Terengganu state government is expected to table a Bill on hudud (Islamic criminal law) at one of the Terengganu State Legislative Assembly sittings this year.
Responding to a question as to whether there would be major changes to the Constitution once PAS comes to power, Hadi said there was no need for major changes to the Constitution as what is needed is to give a proper definition for the term “religion” in the Constitution.
Hadi said the term “agama” in the Constitution comes from the English word “religion”, and the Quranic term of “Ad-din” which is all-encompassing embracing both spiritual and temporal matters, should be used instead.
By this, one can imply that Hadi is not just suggesting the amendment of Article 4 of the Malaysian Constitution to enable Islamic enactment which are in conflict with laws passed by Parliament to prevail, such as the death sentence for apostasy, but also amendment of Article 3 (1) so that its present formulation “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation” will become “Islam is the ad-din of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation".
Such an one-word amendment, changing “religion” in Article 3(1) to “ad-adin”, would alter the whole basic and fundamental structure of the Malaysian Constitution transforming the country into an Islamic State.
With diametric positions on the question of the Islamic State for Malaysia, DAP and PAS had agreed to disagree on this issue as the basis of the modus operandi to form the Barisan Alternative before the 1999 general election on the common election manifesto “Towards a Just Malaysia” so as to end the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional.
This meant that in the 1999 general election, a vote for Barisan Alternative was not a vote for an Islamic state but for the restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
However, PAS leaders have changed the ground rules and the very rationale for the formation of the Barisan Alternative when it decided to pursue its Islamic state objective even at the expense of the Barisan Alternative common manifesto, making it even more difficult in the next general election to convince the voters that a vote for the Barisan Alternative is not a vote for an Islamic state.
This is why last Friday, I had called on the PAS leaders to publicly explain the political, legal and constitutional implications of its Islamic State concept and for a full public debate on this question, as it is a matter of concern not only to the other Barisan Alternative parties but also to the entire Malaysian electorate as to whether 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 or compatible with both political pluralism and a plural society like Malaysia.
While disagreeing with the PAS’ objective of an Islamic State, I fully respect Hadi’s consistency and for beginning to spell out the political, legal and constitutional implications of the PAS concept of an Islamic state, stating for the first time that the non-Muslims would be affected by the civic laws in an Islamic state although they would be entitled to their personal laws affecting their religion and the nature of the fundamental though “simple” changes to the Constitution.
Publicly, there appears to be two schools of thought in PAS, one that the Barisan Alternative Manifesto “Towards a Just Malaysia” makes no reference about the setting up of an Islamic State, and the other, that it provides the basis for the establishment of an Islamic State as it pledges to “create a favourable atmosphere – through the provision of infrastructure, education and legislation – towards affirmation of Islam as a way of life (ad-deen) among Muslims”.
As one of the principal leaders responsible for the Barisan Alternative Manifesto “Towards A Just Malaysia”, I reject the latter interpretation.
The term “ad-deen” appeared twice in Section 3 of the BA Manifesto on “3. The Alternative Front: A Just and Democratic Malaysia”, firstly in the following statement:
“The just and democratic society that we aspire to must be built upon the fundamental spiritual and ethical values that are part of the teachings of Islam and other religions. The practice of Islam as a way of life (ad-deen) and the affirmation of spiritual values – in individuals and in society as a whole – will provide the bastion against corruption, unbridled greed and moral decay.”
The BA Manifesto made eleven principal pledges committing the component parties to the “fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution”, including “The position of Islam as the religion of the Federation, coupled with the principle of the freedom of worship”, and arising from these fundamental commitments, made seven further pledges, the last of which was to “create a favourable atmosphere – through the provision of infrastructure, education and legislation – towards affirmation of Islam as a way of life (ad-deen) among Muslims, while ensuring the rights of non-Muslims to practise their respective religions or beliefs”.
Any attempt to arbitrarily insert the formation of an Islamic State into the BA Manifesto, disregarding the principal pledges to uphold the fundamental principles of the Constitution and to elevate the “ad-deen” reference to a supremacist position to justify a basic and fundamental alteration of the structure of the Constitution, will be to do grave violence to the original intent and meaning of the BA Manifesto, raising fundamental questions about the very raison d’etre of the BA itself.