Should next general election in 2004  be a national verdict on PAS’ Islamic State while the BA’s objective of a “Just and Democratic Malaysia” be deferred until the general election in 2009?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): PAS deputy president Abdul Hadi Awang should explain how his  repeated reiteration that PAS will definitely set up an Islamic state in Malaysia if it comes into power could be reconciled with the Barisan Alternative manifesto “Towards A Just and Democratic Malaysia”, the commitment of the Barisan Alternative parties to uphold the fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution and the assurance given by the PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat that PAS believes not in an Islamic state but in an Islamic community.

Nik Aziz gave this assurance in his dialogue with a group of Christians – the Conference of Churches in Malaysia –  in May last year where  he insisted that his party believes not in an Islamic state ("negara Islam") so much as an Islamic community ("masyarakat Islam"), accepting the more  limited role of the  Islamic religion  in a democratic plural  country, especially with a non-Muslim population of just under half its 22 million people.

PAS leaders have also been pointing out that the “Islamic State” is not referred to in the PAS constitution.

Hadi said in Kuala Terengganu on Wednesday that the important thing was for PAS to be given the opportunity to set up the Islamic State and he was confident that DAP leaders will accept if they get a clear picture of the concept of the Islamic State.

In a democratic society, PAS should convince not only DAP but the Malaysian voters about the Islamic State before the people decides whether they could support the PAS’ ideological objective and not put the cart before the horse of asking for an opportunity to set up an Islamic state and then set about convincing people to support it.

DAP leaders had  explained to PAS that the DAP is opposed to 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.

DAP has taken the position that while it respects PAS for its ideological position on the Islamic State, PAS should be realistic that  in a modern, multi-racial and multi-religious society where non-Muslims comprise some 40 per cent of the population, and where PAS could not on its own get a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the Constitution as not all Malay MPs  would  support PAS on this matter while it is quite safe to assume that all non-Muslims  MPs would oppose it, an Islamic State is not a practical or feasible proposition or option for Malaysia.

As PAS seems to have taken a conscious policy to pursue its Islamic state objective even at the expense of the Barisan Alternative common manifesto, the PAS leaders should publicly explain the political, legal and constitutional implications of its Islamic State concept  and whether PAS leaders are prepared to make the next general election whether in 2003 or 2004 as a national verdict on PAS’  Islamic State, while the Barisan Alternative common objectives of a Just and Democratic Malaysia be deferred to the general election after, whether 2008 or 2009?

The stage can then be set for PAS to put up its case to the Malaysian electorate as to whether its Islamic State concept is able to embrace the nature of modern human progress, namely individual freedoms, democratic governance, social tolerance, women’s rights and political competition.

In this connection, the scare tactics  by the UMNO information chief Datuk Mustapha Mohamed alleging the DAP and PAS were “playing games” over religion and warning that many countries had been destabilised and their peoples left suffering because of religious strife is most deplorable - as the DAP and PAS are not involved in religious strife.

Let Malaysians prove to the Mustaphas and the world  that Malaysia is a country where it is safe to disagree and where differences in culture, religion or political opinion can be aired in a democratic environment without escalating  into violent conflict.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman