The Malaysian Insider
30 July 2015
Disgruntled members of PAS, Malaysia’s sole Islamic political party, are working to form a new political party. There has been some debate over whether the word “Islamic” or the word “Muslim” should be in the name of the new party.
The debate is academic, since the two words will not be permitted by the Registrar of Societies. Indeed, some years ago Malaysia’s Malay political party, Umno, agitated to remove the word “Islam” from the name of PAS (“Parti se Islam Malaysia”) and to forbid the use of the words Islam or Muslim in the name of any political party in Malaysia.
Umno has made no effort to include an Islamic element in its name. Umno is aggressively race-based, presenting itself as defender of the Malay race. Nevertheless Umno does claim it is a party of Muslims. The claim is legitimate since Malays are required by the Federal Constitution to profess the religion of Islam.
Most consider PAS to be Islamist and Umno to be racist. Some consider PAS to be Arab-obsessed and Umno to be Malay-obsessed. A few consider both PAS and Umno to be hypocritical because both are political parties and these few think all politicians will sell their own mothers in order to get a better car.
In the last decade, thanks mainly to the role played by opposition politicians in revealing corruption in the government, many Malaysians have come to see that not all politicians are focused on self-enrichment. Few would disagree that many Malaysians held Tok Guru Nik Aziz, the spiritual head of PAS who died recently, in high esteem.
Until the Ulama-faction captured the reins of PAS this year, many considered PAS politicians relatively “clean”. Doubts arose when the disgruntled losers cited moral failures of the triumphant Ulama amongst their reason for forming a new party.
When I compare Islam in Malaysia with Islam in the rest of the world, I am struck by how Islam’s mouthpieces in Malaysia show themselves to be ignorant of the challenges faced by Muslim minorities in countries as diverse as Australia, China and Zululand.
The goal of state-sponsored Islam and PAS-sponsored Islam in Malaysia appears more aligned to repression of the population a la Saudi Arabia than to social justice and mercy which many Muslim interpreters say is the major focus of the Quran.
It has been claimed that GHB will be “different from PAS” because it will not have a shura council (clerics who make final determinations in matters of faith and practice), and membership will be open to non-Muslims. If that is true, what’s Islamic about GHB?
What makes it different from PKR?
GHB reminds me of Hilary Clinton when she ran against Obama for the Democratic party’s nomination for president in 2007. She never deviated from this rule: “never confirm your opinion on anything until you’re sure it’s what the polls say the majority want to hear.”
Two months after the “progressives” were routed by the ulama in PAS, it appears to me the progressives have done no more than put up an attractive name: New Hope Movement (GHB, Gerakan Harapan Baru).
Despite the excitement over GHB expressed by several analysts for whom I have great respect, I have to say GHB so far is not much different from 1Malaysia. It sounds good, but what does it mean? Show me the manifesto. I’ll end by pitching in what I hope for.
What I hope for in a new “progressive Islamic” political party is not “cleaner” individuals pushing the same manifesto as PAS – a manifesto in which an Islamic State is thought not to exist if Hudud punishments including amputation and stoning are not on the law books.
What I hope for in a new “progressive Islamic” political party is acceptance that maqasid, the principles of justice, can be expressed in civil laws administered by non-Muslim judges and lawyers.
What I hope for in a new “progressive Islamic” political party is acceptance that Islam is so rich that it can be expressed in many different ways – and that those who repeat the Syahada are Muslims whether they don the garb of Ahmadiyya or Dervishes or Syiah.
What I hope for in a new “progressive Islamic” political party is acceptance that the testimony of a non-Muslim is given the same weight as that of a Muslim, and that the testimony of a woman is given the same weight as that of a man.
What I hope for in a new “progressive Islamic” political party is acceptance of the basic structure of the 1957 Federal Constitution, wherein Islam is the ceremonial religion – especially in light of the 1963 Sabah and Sarawak agreements.
If the proponents of GHB want to be taken seriously, they have to explicitly state what makes them different from PKR, PAS and Umno. – July 30, 2015.