It was at the insistence of DAP leaders that a Barisan Alternative leadership dialogue was held on Saturday, 16th June 2001, in Kuala Lumpur where leaders from the the four component parties gathered to discuss the ideological differences on the question of the Islamic State.
The establishment of an Islamic State will be a violation of the 1999 Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto “Towards A Just and Democratic Malaysia”, as it will go against the commitment of the Barisan Alternative to uphold the fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution which would have to be radically altered for an Islamic State.
As DAP leaders had stressed at the Barisan Alternative Leadership Dialogue on June 16, 2001, the Barisan Alternative must address and respect legitimate opposition to the establishment of an Islamic State in Malaysia, not because of anti-Islam sentiments but because an Islamic State in multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia is not compatible with parliamentary democracy, power-sharing in a plural society, human rights and individual freedoms, women’s rights and social tolerance.
There is a view that the Islamic State question should not be an issue for the Barisan Alternative as all component parties could fall back on the Barisan Alternative common manifesto “Towards a Just and Democratic Malaysia”, where there is no reference to the establishment of an Islamic State.
The DAP does not agree with this view. The Barisan Alternative manifesto “Towards a Just and Democratic Malaysia” was considered adequate for the 1999 general elections to rally Malaysians to break the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional by depriving it of its two-thirds parliamentary majority, which was the DAP’s objective although there were voices of exuberant optimism that the Barisan Nasional could be toppled from power.
Under those circumstances, the common objectives reached by the Barisan Alternative parties to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance before the 1999 general elections were regarded as an adequate platform to seek the support of the Malaysian voters, especially as there are also political and constitutional safeguards against the establishment of an Islamic State.
The situation for the next general elections whether 2,003 or 2,004 are completely different, as the Barisan Alternative cannot just dodge the issue of an Islamic State, especially with PAS leaders openly declaring their commitment to establish an Islamic State
I agree with DAP Deputy National Chairman Karpal Singh that the question at issue is not about PAS leaders giving the DAP leaders “an intellectual explanation” about the Islamic State or the DAP leaders giving the PAS leaders “an intellectual explanation” about their objection to an Islamic State, but whether the Barisan Alternative is prepared to respect and accept the legitimate concerns and objections of Malaysians to an Islamic state, not because they are anti-Islam but because they will not be able to exercise their full citizenship rights in such a system of governance and their belief that a theocratic state, whether Islamic, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu would be inappropriate for a plural society like Malaysia.
If the Barisan Alternative is unable to do so, then it will be difficult for it to continue under its present format.
As PAS leaders have repeatedly reiterated their commitment to the establishment of an Islamic State, and this is not an issue that just concerns the Barisan Alternative, it may be useful that a full public debate on the question could be held.