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PAS at a Crossroads

Posted: 18 Nov 2013 12:49 PM PST

If incumbent deputy president Mohamad Sabu and his friends win well, and especially if the three incumbent Vice Presidents—Datuk Paduka Husam Musa, Datuk Mahfuz Omar and Salahuddin Ayub—are returned to their posts, then I will be reasonably confident that the party has a future in galvanising the democratic and moderate forces of the country.

On the other hand, their defeat will mean that right-wing conservatives in PAS may coalesce and join forces with those outside the party, particularly UMNO, to further the cause of extremist politics in Malaysia.

The forthcoming PAS elections will be a day of reckoning for the party, for the Malays and for Malaysia. Some observers have pointed out that the resurgence of PAS conservatives is a result of the defeat of party moderates at the recent General Election. This, say observers, is why delegates will abandon the moderates at the party polls and opt for the ulama faction. They also say that widespread talk of implementing hudud is a sign of the growing influence of the conservative faction.

It will be most disappointing if the conservatives prevail. UMNO will then have no reason to return to a moderate and progressive Malay-Muslim political platform, as some expected after the General Election.

Indeed I believe that the DNA of UMNO has totally mutated and it has become a completely different species from the original party that was founded 55 years ago and led by our first three Prime Ministers. The fact that the MCA, Gerakan, the MIC and other parties in East Malaysia are still attached to UMNO does not in any way indicate that they are real partners in Malaysian politics today.

Thus, the space for a moderate and progressive Islamic party is there for the taking. There is room for PAS to make new friends and build new alliances in addition to those they already have in the Pakatan Rakyat. If PAS were to opt for more practical and pragmatic politics and policies, they will fill the void by making it easier for others to work with them.

The first step towards greater acceptance must involve putting an end to using hudud as a tactic to scare people. PAS leaders know that this aspect of shariah law does not resonate in Malaysia and will not be implemented, whether by PAS or by UMNO, in the near future.  We are not Brunei where the views of the many do not count. So why give Middle Malaysia no choice but to support the so-called "moderate" UMNO when UMNO has become extreme beyond recognition?

PAS leaders need only address the real issues of the rakyat and champion the cause of the people in order to make the party an acceptable alternative to UMNO. PAS leaders should remember the advice of Dr Burhanuddin Helmi, Tan Sri Asri Muda and Datuk Fadzil Noor, that uplifting Muslim life in economics and education is the only way to create a just Muslim society. As such, the structure and forms of the Islamic State, with its attendant ideologies such as hudud, do not enrich or empower Muslims and do not deserve priority when so much more can and must be done.

Malaysia today is desperately in need of a Malay-Muslim party that addresses the needs and hopes of the common people. The young need jobs. Those with jobs need good pay. Those who have gone to university need regular incomes to repay their student loans.  The list goes on and on, and the country deserves a fairer party in power than UMNO. PAS has the potential to be this party if it can offer reforms in all walks of life to improve the lot of ordinary Malaysians of all creeds and colours.




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