DAP and the PAS Islamic agenda


Comment by THOMAS LEE SENG HOCK

One of the most contentious issues that MCA president Chua Soi Lek raised at last weekend’s great debate is the so-called call PAS Islamic agenda, and the alleged failure of his opponent DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng to make a public stand on the matter.

Soi Lek and his MCA have been harping on this PAS issue consistently, persistently, and tediously since early 2011, trying to score political points rhetorically to undermine the credibility of Guan Eng and the DAP, using in particular the party-owned newspaper The Star in his unrelenting determined campaign against the DAP.

But does Soi Lek truly understand what the whole matter of the Islamic agenda is all about?

PAS, like any other political party all over the world is founded on a political idealogy, in its case the Islamic theocratic idealogy. The raison d’être for the founding of PAS is the promotion, advancement and establishment of an Islamic theocratic society. Without this mandate, PAS has no legitimate purpose to continue its existence.

Hence, like the communist idealogical platform, the liberal social political philosophy, the capitalism system, the authoritarian right-wing fascism, the democratic securalism of the DAP, the open laissex-faire free society concept, and even the contemporary green movement, PAS has a very social, civil, human and constitutional right to promote and advance its Islamic agenda, more so when our country is a Muslim-majority state.

The problem is not the PAS Islamic agenda per se, but the stupidity of its leaders, who are not too intelligent, let alone intellectual.

Despite so many of them having purported doctorate degrees, they are going about promoting their PAS Islamic ideology the wrong way, by stressing and emphazing on petty irrelevant matters of non substance such as protesting against concerts by foreign artistes, moral policing of personal behaviour, banning fo Valentine celebration, objection to even healthy entertainment joints like cinemas, enforcing dress code on the women folks, and going on witch-hunting at Christian churches for so-called apostates, etc. In the process of such silly and senseless practices, they frighten off the non-Muslims and brought about a lot of ill-wills and caused a lot of anger among the non-Muslims.

What the Muslim party should stress on is the fundamental goodness of Islam in the areas of truth, righteousness, justice, fairness, and human rights, to win the hearts and minds of both the Muslims and non-Muslims, not to put them off with all those nonsense propagated and perpetualled by the likes of Hasan Ali and the Bangi state assembly member Shafie Abu Bakar.

Being a Christian, whose religion also teaches the exclusiveness of the faith, I can understand the stand of my Muslim sisters and brothers in PAS who insist on and stand firm on the exclusiveness of their religion.

From the strictly theological perspective, PAS is right. Islam, like Christianity, is certainly an exclusive religious faith, claiming in the Shahada (Declaration of Faith) that “There is no god, but Allah” (La ilah illa Ilah) and Muhammad is Allah’s messenger (Wa Muhammad rasul u’llah). The PAS position is certainly consistently with the fundamental doctrine of Islam.

Like Christianity, Islam also claims exclusivity to its beliefs and teachings. A Muslim’s faith is firmly based on the belief that the source of his religion Islam is God and Muhammad is the only and last and final prophet and spokesman for God on the Earth. A true Muslim holds that Islam is not just one of the many religions, but THE religion per se, the only true religion of God, the religion of the created natural order (din-al-fitrah).

The religion is called Islam because Allah had decreed it in the Quran: “Lo the religion with God is Al Islam to His will and guidance” (3:19) and “I have chosen for you as religion Al Islam” (5:3). Islam, an Arab word, means submission, total surrender and obedience, and that is the practical implications for Muslims. There are several greetings based on the word Islam, such as “Peace be upon you” (salamalek) and “Go in peace” (bissalma, masalma).

Thus, the teaching of Islam is about a life of faith and peace through submission to the one and only true God Allah. The word “Muslim” means a person who has totally surrendered his whole life to Allah.

The Islamic faith is not just purely an organized ritualistic religion, but a complete way of life, covering every area of life and thoughts, including politics.

Hence, the PAS claim to exclusivity for Islam is not without theological merit.

As I said earlier, as a Christian, I can understand the PAS position, since my faith is also an exclusive one. No Christian will dispute or challenge my contention that Christianity also claims exclusivity to be the only way of salvation for mankind, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” and “No one comes to the Father (God) except through me (Jesus)”. (John 14:6), and that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The issue before us, therefore, is not the question of theological belief per se, but how to relate an exclusive faith to other religions in a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual society like Malaysia.

This is where many PAS leaders lack the wisdom and intelligence to understand and articulate the relationship of Muslims with people of other faith the the plural society like Malaysia.

The word “pluralism” has been used unilaterally by almost everyone – religious leaders, politicians, journalists – without fully understanding what the concept actually means and implies.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “pluralism” as “a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, etc co-exist.

The keyword, I believe, is “co-exist”. The context in which pluralism exists and practiced is the widely diverse and varied range of religious faiths in a given society, such as Malaysia which has Islam as its official religion and other faiths being part of the scenario.

The fundamental issue we face in a plural society like Malaysia is the matter of peaceful and harmonious co-existence among the people of various races and religious beliefs.

Although I believe that PAS is theologically consistent with the teaching of Islam, its leaders’ stated public stand that Islam rejects religious pluralism that claims all religions to be equally good and truthful is certainly not politically correct in the context of the Malaysian plural society.

I believe PAS should look at the issue of pluralism from two broad perspectives, before making a sweeping dismissal of pluralism per se.

First, there is the pluralistic perspective that all religions are equal and “all roads lead to God”. Obviously, Islam, and, for that matter Christianity, will never endorse such a view. Islam and Christianity both teach and propagate that their respective faith is the only true religion, with all other religious systems and faiths being considered “pagan”.

Hence, it is simply impossible for a true Muslim or an honest Christian to agree to inter-faith “spiritual activities”. For a Muslim or Christian to participate, for example, in an inter-faith “worship” or prayer is to acknowledge that his faith is just one among many others, to place his God on equal standing with the deities of other religious faiths.

This is what justifies the PAS position in relationship to other faiths. And I will say that the PAS concern is valid and theologically consistent with the Islamic teaching. As a Christian, I take a similar stand that I cannot participate in an inter-religious worship service or other inter-faith spirituality activities, without dishonouring and betraying my Lord Jesus.

But, there is another perspective of pluralism which does not involve the matter of spiritual compromise, and that is the common universal moral values among all peoples of the world. And it is this common earthly destiny of all peoples that PAS should consider the vital role of Muslims to help promote peace and harmony among the people, who are the vice-regents of Allah (khalifa Allah) on Earth.

As I said before, as a Christian, I will not participate in an inter-faith worship service which will place my Lord Jesus as being among one of the gods, on equal standing with them. If I do, it will mean I am not consistent with my faith in the Lord Jesus as the only way, the truth, and the life. Such a compromise in matters of spirituality is surely not correct and honest.

My Muslim friends, too, are correct in taking a similar stand, or else their Shahada becomes a vain recitation, rendering their faith to be meaningless. Hence, PAS is theologically correct in its stand.

However, in the matters of truth, morality, justice, righteousness, equality, freedom, human, civil and constitutional rights, I will endorse and support any inter-faith “dialogue” and joint stand and actions.

This is the other perspective of pluralism that I believe PAS should seriously study and evaluate, before dismissing the whole concept of pluralism per se.

Although the people of Malaysia are adherents of various faiths and religious systems, they are united for the common purpose of nation-building, and are jointly dealing with many fundamental civil, social, constitutional and human rights issues relating their role as citizens. Hence, the need to come together to talk and compromise.

There is an urgent need for inter-faith dialogues on matters such as the freedom to worship, teach and propagate each other’s religion, the matter of land for places of worship and burial, the right to use the national language Bahasa Malaysia without restriction in worship and religious education, the legal disputes over the conversion of individuals, particularly children, and the vital matter of co-existence.

PAS and all the responsible Muslim leaders should be willing to participate in such inter-faith dialogues as the common-interest issues need not involve doctrinal compromise or theological dispute.

I hope all parties concerned with the dispute over pluralism will understand and accept that the fundamental matter is the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of all persons or all faiths, with each practicing his faith with full sensitivity and due respect to people of other faiths.

What we want is not a theological war, but a channel for inter-faith dialogues and a medium for communication on issues of universal common interests.

That, I believe, is what Lim Guan Eng and the DAP stand for.
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Thomas Lee is currently the media consultant to the Penang state government, but will be unemployed as his contract expires in the middle of March and will not be renewed. He has several advanced degrees in theological studies, and had even even attended courses at Pusat Islam. He can be contacted at [email protected]

  1. #1 by monsterball on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 11:00 am

    I hate talking religion because UMNO b have been twisting and telling half truths …using Islamic religion and even mocking God to win Muslim votes.
    The second last sentence of this post is what we all should be.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 11:17 am

    Let me put it simply. Politicians screws things up – always, and politician in religion screws things up even more but politicians where religion rules politics is simply asking for disaster – that is simply the nature of man and politics in ANY religion.

    So lets get down to the practical – how do keep this country secular – its plain and simple. The answer lies in Sabah & Sarawak – where non-Muslim are even a bigger share of the population and Islam is less politicised. So long as the Malaysia Agreement is implemented in full, Borneo developed and UMNO is then automatically rightly neutered there, Sabah & Sarawak will leave if Hudud is ever insidiously implemented.

  3. #3 by Winston on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 11:30 am

    I think that all religions must also be in keeping with the times.
    Religious edicts written long ago might be suitable for those
    times when society was usually homogenous.
    Nowadays, there is a lot of mixing of peoples of different
    religions in many countries.
    And the more restrictive aspects may have to be adjusted to
    accommodate others.

  4. #4 by shukurhasran on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 12:21 pm

    As a muslim, i should thank you for this article, i take it in good faith. Politics aside, as an ordinary Malaysian, what you said can be applied in ordinary life with my non-muslim friends.

    To me, it is not to impose our own belief onto others. It is not which religion or belief is right.

    To discuss, so each of us can understand each other is good. Through understanding come respect.

    Regarding pluralism, some muslim might think it is like a new sect.

    Thank you Mr Thomas

  5. #5 by lkt-56 on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 12:38 pm

    Quote:
    As a Christian, I take a similar stand that I cannot participate in an inter-religious worship service or other inter-faith spirituality activities, without dishonouring and betraying my Lord Jesus.
    Unquote.

    Did Jesus say that your act of participating in interfaith spirituality activities is an act of dishonouring and betraying Him? That is the trouble with incomplete understanding of what spirituality is.

    I am sure all Malaysians understand what pluralism is all about because the various races have been living together all this while. Understand that there will be extreme elements in all parties who spout nonsense. As sensible Malaysians we understand what it means to be different yet respect each others culture and religion. We are at the cross road because we are maturing as a society to look at ourselves as Malaysians and not as Chinese, Malays, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, or any other races. More importantly we are on the verge of walking the road towards a matured political system where communalism is considered outdated and irrelevant.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 1:17 pm

    It all boild down to the chauvinistic attitude that “My god is greater than your god, so why should we sit at the same table as you?” This means that the followers of the lesser gods should grovel at the feet of the followers of the ‘superior god’

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 2:12 pm

    I guess Thomas is entitled to his personal preference not to participate in an inter-religious worship service or other inter-faith spirituality activities. This a complex issue evaluating a lot of sensitive issues of the intention behind inter-religious worship service, the practical obtacles beginning with venue, of how people of different faiths could worship – indeed it involves even the meaning of what is worship and how one in accordance to his faith does it for it to be organised for all to participate in common, or serially/separately albeit in same venue….

    One can’t just rebut Thomas by asking “Did Jesus say that your act of participating in interfaith spirituality activities is an act of dishonouring and betraying Him?” as he could equally ask whether and when Jesus had ever expressly said he could! Its how one interpret the divine will, which depends on individual also.

  8. #8 by lkt-56 on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 5:45 pm

    Inter-faith spirituality – complex and evaluating a lot of sensitive issues? Bullshit. It is the ignorant mind that makes it so. Sure Jesus did not say that he could participate in inter-faith spirituality. You should then use your heart to decide if you are really different from other humans of different culture and religious faiths. If you find that difficult, look at your physical self and see the similarities between yourself and others. Do you have emotions? Does the others have emotions too? All religions preach Love. Spiritual love that bond not only the entire human race but also love for all things in the entire universe. Spend more time on reflections and you will know what I mean.

  9. #9 by hang tuah on Monday, 20 February 2012 - 8:41 pm

    good to hear that u will be unemployed and your contract wont be extended by march. more time for you to practice your version of mother of all religion.

    i think on top of your advance degree and courses, u still have more to learn from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington DC.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 2:31 pm

    ///You should then use your heart to decide if you are really different from other humans of different culture and religious faiths.///

    Bull shit? I am not even religious but can understand that even on a simple matter like venue, and assuming congregation of different faith conduct their worship serially one after another in a same place, there will be practical problems like some Christians may have reservation to worship in a mosque or a Muslim in the Church, so where’s the neutral place that both are comfortable to worship together? Not everyone got your knowledgeable heart that may perhaps due to what yoiu claim as spiritual reflection feel comfortable to worship (say) in another neutral public, football field or a school hall, and the fact they don’t feel comfortable is not a reason to say they’re “ignorant”! It is arrogant to say so!

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 - 2:35 pm

    ///You should then use your heart to decide if you are really different from other humans of different culture and religious faiths///

    First of all not everyone is like you – they do think their faiths are difdferent from others- and secondly even if they don’t feel really different from other humans of different culture and religious faiths, it does not mean they feel comfortable or ought to feel comfortable of an inter-faith spirituality activity and event. Don’t arrogate yourself as the standard of wisdom for application to others!

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