In 1999, a women's rights advocate contested on an
opposition front ticket in an urban parliamentary constituency. PAS supporters,
in their robes and serban, marched to the nomination centre with her.
But one night, in full view of the press, she was ordered to speak from the
kitchen at a small gathering in a house belonging to a PAS supporter as the men
took their places in the hall.
In fact, women journalists still complain of being segregated from their men
colleagues when they cover the annual PAS general assembly.
Muslim women reporters are also required to cover their heads with
Despite being outspoken in her views on women issues, the woman candidate was
too timid to go against the order of the PAS members, whom she relied on during
the campaign. She lost in the election and was never heard about again.
PAS has again brought up the idea of admitting non-Muslims into its fold. In
the latest issue of Harakah, the party organ, several Chinese leaders were
interviewed on the possibility of admitting non-Muslims as members.
There is little point in admitting non-Muslims as associate members with no
rights, as they will merely be window dressing. The question is whether PAS is
prepared to have non-Muslims as full-fledged members with voting rights and a
chance to seek election.
Until PAS is ready to commit itself to such changes, it will merely be wishful
thinking on the part of non-Muslim opposition supporters to expect PAS to be
Even the DAP, which tried to have a meaningful relationship with PAS, has given
up after several bad experiences. PAS wants to turn Malaysia into an Islamic
state and has said so many times.
Well-intended Malaysians, especially non-Muslims, have invited PAS speakers to
talk about a PAS-run Malaysia. Playing to the gallery, PAS speakers often tell
the non-Muslims that if the party is given a chance, there will be no
discriminatory practices between bumiputras and non-bumiputras.
To a church or temple gathering, PAS leaders will emphasise that all religion
forbid gambling and the taking of liquor. Buddhist and Christian leaders
should, thus, support the PAS ban on gambling and drinking.
But pressed a little harder, PAS leaders will admit that in an Islamic state,
there is a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
It is also difficult convincing PAS members that drinking and gambling are
allowed, or at least tolerated, by the Chinese community. It is a matter of
choice and rights.
Just like dressing, non-Muslims have the right to wear shorts and mini-skirts
if they want to. Under a PAS-run country, no one is quite sure whether this can
In short, under a PAS-run Malaysia, there will be no non-Muslim ministers. That
is precisely why PAS cannot have non-Muslims as members.
PAS is talking about non-Muslims as members because there is talk that Barisan
Nasional may call for a general election next year. In fact, PAS is feverishly
preparing for the elections by holding more ceramahs.
If PAS wants non-Muslims to accept the party, it should go beyond cosmetic
changes. To call for a jihad against the United States and to urge its
supporters to fight along the Taliban in Afghanistan won't win them
Neither should the party blame the media for shooting itself in the foot.
Moderate Malaysians should not expect the Islamist party to change.