On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Uphill task for PAS to shed Iranian-style image

To the majority of non-Muslims, their perception of an
Islamic state, which PAS wants to set up, is about policies of

PAS cannot say that non-Muslims have misunderstood what PAS has been trying to
advocate because such negative perception is basically the party's own

The state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu have kept introducing laws
which have further reinforced that image.

In Kelantan, the state has introduced laws to separate women and men in payment
queues in supermarkets and discouraging the civil service from hiring
attractive women.

In Terengganu, the state has demolished the replica of a turtle at a roundabout
and has planned to implement syariah and hudud laws.

Even the non-Muslims have not been spared as gaming and alcohol have been
banned in both states.

PAS deputy president Datuk Hadi Awang recently announced that PAS would close
down the casino in Genting Highlands if it captures Pahang in the next general

But the fears of non-Muslims, which are very real, are not confined to PAS
wanting to ban the sale of liquor or shutting gaming outlets but, more
important, it is the exclusion of non-Muslims from government under an Islamic

Non-Muslims may still keep their places of worship under an Islamic state but
they may no longer have the political rights that they now enjoy.

In fact, no one can tell for sure what kind of Islamic state model PAS wants to
pursue, particularly when many West Asian countries have poor records of human

Pro-opposition supporters may think that PAS is the only viable party to take
on Umno, the backbone of Barisan Nasional, but they are basically gambling away
their rights, particularly the non-Muslims.

If the DAP, after three years of association, is now struggling to save the
marriage, it does not make sense for non-Muslim groups and parties to support
the Islamist party.

DAP has found out the hard way that PAS will never change their objective and
struggles. It will never compromise its plans to implement Islamic laws in

Moderate Western-suited politicians now in PAS like Tumpat MP Datuk Kamaruddin
Jaafar will have to fight it out with the orthodox ulamaks, who will keep their
tight grip on the party.

The DAP has found itself in a dilemma because it understands the sentiments of
the majority of non-Muslims, particularly those in the cities and new

The DAP realises that it will never be able to regain the lost ground if it
continues to hold PAS' hands.

DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang must surely realise that it is to the advantage of
Chinese-based parties like the MCA and Gerakan for the DAP-PAS pact to

If the link stays, the two Chinese parties will surely continue to harp on the
pact, as it did in the 1999 general election.

PAS has consistently maintained that it will strive to set up an Islamic state.
There is no way that PAS will drop that objective because that is the basis of
its struggle.

PAS now believes it is strong enough to win the next elections with or without
the DAP. In fact, in the Lunas by-election last November, PAS helped Parti
Keadilan Nasional win the seat without the support of the DAP.

The DAP, which had earlier stayed away, only came at the eleventh hour when it
was almost certain that Keadilan would win.

In the case of Keadilan, its deputy president Dr Chandra Muzaffar has kept his
views very clear about the Islamic state envisaged by PAS but there is
uncertainty whether other Keadilan leaders are as broad-minded as he is.

It is clear that the opposition front is on shaky ground when it comes to the
Islamic state issue.

Some non-Muslims have criticised the DAP, particularly on an Internet news
website, about its uneasiness with PAS.

But DAP leaders like Kit Siang and his deputy Karpal Singh are feeling the
pulse of the Chinese and Indian voters better than these critics.

It is understood that some young DAP leaders, particularly those with
non-governmental organisation background, are against the DAP ending its ties
with PAS. But realistic and experienced DAP leaders like Kit Siang and Karpal
Singh understand that it is no good for a political party to talk about
idealism if it cannot win enough seats.

The alleged involvement of PAS members with the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia
(KMM) will not help PAS win more non-Muslim votes.

There may be some who will refuse to believe the allegations by the police but
the majority of non-Muslims accept that PAS will always attract such

PAS leaders may not even know the identities of these members, being a
broad-based party. In fact, its leaders have openly condemned the use of
violence and have distanced itself from KMM.

Still, the stigma of PAS being perceived as an Iranian-style party which
advocates a conservative theocratic state has been etched on the minds of
non-Muslim voters, who will be the decisive voters in the next elections.