On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Beware of promises by religious zealots

There can be no arguments or amendments to these laws. However, in an effort to
win non-Muslim votes, PAS is saying – without spelling out the details – they
can have a place in government.

We can be sure that the social and cultural atmosphere of
Malaysia will never be the same if PAS comes to power, even if we are promised
that the status quo remains.

The Islamist party has already served us enough notice with its actions in
Kelantan and Terengganu.

Last week, PAS published a photograph of Entrepreneur Development Minister
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz dancing with a dangdut singer at a charity night to raise
funds for Iraqi war victims.

There is no need for Nazri to feel apologetic and he has rightly said there was
nothing wrong in him dancing for a good cause.

But we should not be surprised. Unless moderate Malaysians speak up against the
actions of this misguided minority, they will impose their views on our
moderate way of living in the name of religion.

There are religious zealots not only in PAS but also among many levels of
government officers who seem preoccupied with these minor issues.

I say this because it was brought to my attention recently that a headmistress
of a convent school decided to ban singing and dancing classes, which had been
conducted for years.

When she was confronted by angry parents, she defended her actions, saying that
she decided to stop these classes because the students had not excelled in
singing and dancing. It's a weak excuse.

The teacher, who had carried out other controversial actions in the
predominantly non-Muslim school, was eventually referred to the Education

We have also heard of school principals who have decided to replace Bahasa
Malaysia writings on school walls with Arabic.

Previously, there have been complaints that teachers had issued ''advisory'' to
students to wear certain attire in school.

We know how students react to such ''advisory'' because they want to conform
and wish to be in the good books of their teachers.

There have also been complaints that students are ''advised'' to wear long
pants instead of shorts when taking part in games, which is not just
impractical and uncomfortable but unhealthy.

Instead of pursuing academic excellence, these teachers seem to be more
concerned with other minor matters, which can lead to unnecessary

In Kelantan and Terengganu, many aspects of Malay culture have been banned by
PAS because it deems these practices as un-Islamic.

The inability of these people in positions, particularly at the implementation
level, to come to terms with the fact that Malaysia is a multi-religious,
multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society is disturbing.

Over the past decade, we have found such extremism creeping into our society in
subtle ways.

We see council officers in Ipoh arresting non-Muslims for holding hands and,
recently, Bahasa Malaysia newspapers rightly highlighted the case of a Malay
youth who was manhandled by religious department officers for simply putting
his hand on the shoulder of his girlfriend.

In Selangor, the Kajang municipal council banned the sale of pork in a
predominantly Chinese area and this ban was lifted only after the MCA

In these cases, the moderate Barisan Nasional government has stepped in and
taken steps to rectify the error.

Middle and low-level bureaucrats have been giving the Government a bad name by
misinterpreting the rules.

As for PAS, we have been told what they want to do should they come to power.
That should give non-Muslims enough time to ponder whether they wish to be
adventurous with their votes.