Although the DAP was a lone voice in the BA for the past 20 months, the speech by the Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) president Dr. Syed Husin Ali on Sunday that the Islamic state issue must be debated openly is a step in the right direction. DAP, however, does not agree with the caveat that such a public debate should only be held after the BA had reached an agreement on the issue.
This is because the issue of the Islamic State is not an issue which merely concerns the BA parties, but all 23 million Malaysians in the country. Malaysians not only have a right to know the stand of the BA and the component parties on Islamic State, the BA parties are duty-bound as well to listen to the views and concerns of the people, regardless of race or religion on this issue.
PAS President Datuk Fadzil Noor said on Sunday that PAS will embark
on a campaign to educate Malaysians on its concept of Islam, and that the
PAS website and Harakah would run weekly series that would help to clarify
any doubts and suspicions about the concept. The PAS information bureau
will also run a nationwide campaign on the Islamic concept.
The root problem, however, lies not in a PAS campaign to “educate” the people on its Islamic concept as on whether PAS is prepared to accept that despite its ideological commitment, an Islamic State is not suitable or feasible for a democratic plural society like Malaysia.
Furthermore, such a PAS “education” campaign is based on the mistaken premise that those who are opposed to the Islamic State concept, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, are misled by their lack of understanding of Islam and its teachings for justice when the issue at stake is not the Islamic religion but whether the Islamic political order conceived by PAS can create a just Malaysian society for everyone of its citizens.
In my speech to a PAS Melaka forum in June last year, I had stressed that the future of the BA would depend on whether it could succeed in laying to rest the two spectres which the Barisan Nasional had tried to frighten Malaysian voters in the 1999 general elections, that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam which wants to see the destruction of Islam while PAS is extremist and fanatical and wants to end the religious, cultural and political rights and freedoms of the non-Muslims in Malaysia.
I stressed that by the next election, the BA and in particular the DAP must be able to counter a new set of political attacks by the Barisan Nasional, in particular its non-Malay component parties, painting PAS as representing a political Islam which is obscurantist, extremist, fanatical, oppressive against women and minorities, incompatible with democracy, human rights, political tolerance and cultural pluralism.
I spoke of the “urgent need” for the BA to develop a consensus,
not only at the leadership level but involving the membership of
all its component parties, on certain critical issues so that it could
effectively counter this new set of political attacks by the Barisan Nasional,
going well beyond the common manifesto "Towards A Just Malaysia" reached
before the last general election, such as:
It is most unfortunate that the BA lost 20 valuable months in addressing these issues, which cannot be deferred any longer.