Gerakan Harapan Baru, Parti Progresive Islam – whatever name is finally decided for the breakaway group of Pas moderates and progressives – will not matter. What matters is that a new political force is being set up to provide Malaysian Muslims with an alternative to Pas and UMNO in the coming elections.
This move by PAS reformers is possibly the most important development to take place in the country’s political system for a long time. Why do I say this?
Well, most Malaysians especially non-Muslims, we have only had a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea since 1957 in terms of Muslim based parties. That is a choice of UMNO or PAS.
UMNO plays racial cum religious politics; PAS plays religious cum racial politics. We had what is referred to as Hobson’s choice or in simple English, no choice in choosing the government. This ‘take it or leave it’ option to voters is finally going to change.
In fact many Malaysians had thought that we were having a new era in politics when the Pakatan Rakyat coalition was set up in 2008 and PAS promised to adhere by the Common Policy Framework in 2010. As a result of the CPF which prioritized socio-economic justice, equality and good governance, the majority of Malaysian voters during the last elections voted for the opposition.
A very large number of voters also voted for PAS members of parliament and assemblymen because we thought that the party was sincere in joining a multiracial coalition whose agenda is not based on religion and who recognized that the answer to the problems of Malaysian society cannot come from religiously applied principles and guidelines.
This was why my friends and I put our faith in Pakatan in Perak during the past 2 elections. I also actively campaigned for Dato Seri Nizar who served as Mentri Besar until the dirty tricks of the BN toppled him and the Pakatan government.
Nizar and the Pakatan coalition had only a brief tenure as the state government. But in that short period, they did wonders in showing the potential of a genuinely multi-racial and multi-religious coalition. Led by a Pas leader, Pakatan served all Perakians with sound, accountable and pro-rakyat based policies which set a new standard for the state and country.
Hudud and PAS’s ‘Go Stan Balik’ New Leadership
When Pakatan was set up, all the parties agreed that the issue of establishing an Islamic state and implementing hudud law was to be put in the back burner. Hudud was never part of the Common Policy Framework. Everybody including PAS leaders knew this. This stand is not simply an effort to reassure non-Malay and non-Muslim voters. It is also not because of disrespect for Muslims and Islamic law.
It is because we are a multi-religious and multi-cultural country. It is common sense that our society can co-exist harmoniously and prosper only if we have our law based on secular principles and practice. This position was arrived at by the framers of the constitution which included two Islamic jurists among the five members of the Reid Commission – Hakim Malik from India and Hakim Halim Abdul Hamid from Pakistan.
Unfortunately, the present batch of newly elected PAS leaders, know little or do not care for the constitution or are ignorant of the constitutional history of the country. They do not see the fundamental need to ensure that religion is best left in the private sphere. They are blind to the fact that religion will cause all kinds of problems if extended into public life. This is true in non-Muslim countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia where attempts by various majorities to implement a religious agenda have brought chaos and disorder.
It is especially true in countries with a majority Muslim population. Suffice it to say that many if not most of the problems of Islamic countries in the world today are because they have allowed religiously oriented politicians to hijack the state and impose their version of the Islamic state.
What The New Islamic Party Should Fight For and Against
For the new Islamic party in Malaysia to make the real breakthrough, this is what they have to do
1 Adhere to the Common Policy Framework and reject a hard line and extremist Islamic ideology
2 Oppose the move to introduce hudud in Kelantan and the federal parliament
3 Declare full support for the Malaysian constitution’s position on democratic and human rights and the equality of all citizens, irrespective of race or creed
4 Fight racial and religious extremism and hate wherever it comes from
5 It is not enough for leaders of the new party to say that the party will have a higher purpose than the introduction of hudud. The party wants to create a better life for the people.
If PAS president and ulama leaders want to take their supporters back to the time, practices and dogmas that were found in the Middle East 1400 years ago then the new Islamic party must join Malaysians in saying to them “Good luck, good riddance and good bye!”
What Zaid Ibrahim wrote recently :
Zaid Ibrahim who has been fighting a lone battle against Islamic extremist and for sanity in religious and racial politics has recently written
To my friends Mohamad Sabu, Khalid Samad and others, there are thousands and thousands of Malay Muslims waiting to hear you across the land. They want something refreshing and truthful about the country and its leaders. They are sick of the present politics and they are tired of having been burdened for more than 55 years with the dilemma of choosing either a corrupt bunch of Malay leaders milking the country dry, or a bunch of ulama who do nothing but serve their own political ends.
The people want a real alternative and we must give it to them. Millions of non-Muslim Malaysians join him in wishing the new party well!