On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Alarm bells ringing for non-Muslims

Recently, Malaysians saw and heard PAS vice-president
Datuk Mustapha Ali on BBC's Hardtalk that the party had never mentioned
anything about an Islamic state and that the term was used by the media to
frighten the non-Muslims.

But last week, party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang unveiled plans for
an orthodox Islamic state with the syariah laws replacing the Federal

The 53-page document, aimed at wooing Muslims, clearly showed that
Western-style democracy had no place in Malaysia
if PAS forms the next Federal Government.

Hadi's commitment to set up an Islamic state seems to contradict what the other
leaders have said, although most non-Muslims have long questioned the sincerity
of PAS.

Like all election manifestos, the Islamic state blueprint is no

It sounds good but voters have to take all these with a pinch of salt.

PAS leaders can be religious people but strip away the flowing robes, turbans
and beards, they are politicians only interested in power.

Promising to protect the cultural and religious rights of non-Muslims in an
Islamic state, PAS has conveniently ignored the controversies the Terengganu
Government had created in infringing on the rights of the Chinese and Indian

The state government banned the two communities from holding functions which
involve dancing between the sexes.

In the case of the Indians, who celebrate Deepavali, it banned a cultural dance
because it involved female and male performers.

Even more bizarre was the state mullahs' refusal to tolerate social dancing
organised for senior citizens, claiming it was against the interest of the
majority-Muslim population in the state. So much for protecting the rights of

In Kelantan, the cultural rights of Malays have been trampled with the PAS
state government defining what is Islamic and not Islamic for the

As a result, the richness of Malay culture such as wayang kulit and mak yong
have suffered greatly as Nik Aziz pursued his Arabic bias.

But more alarming is the PAS assertion, in its Islamic State Blueprint, which
emphasised that to criticise the concept is to criticise the religion.

In other words, to criticise the party and its leaders would be tantamount to
blasphemy and treason.

Using the logic of PAS leaders, how can that be compatible with democracy,
which allows the people to question constitutional laws. There are other areas
of concern, one of them that the Prime Minister must be a Muslim.

We know that in Malaysia, a Muslim Malay will be the chief executive for simple
practical political reasons but this has never been written into the constitution
because our founding fathers and up to the present government respect the
constitutional rights of every Malaysian.

In the case of PAS, it has barred non-Muslims from becoming prime minister. No
one would be surprised if non-Muslims are eventually stopped from becoming
chief minister as well.

After all, it is the policy of PAS not to field non-Muslim candidates. At one
time, the party toyed with the idea of having non-Muslims as associate members
but it was scrapped when the grassroots protested. In fact, the party cannot
even accept women candidates.

Then there is the irony of two sets of laws, one for Muslims and another for
non-Muslims. For argument's sake, what happens if a non-Muslim woman was raped
by a Muslim? The syariah law requires three credible witnesses. Where on earth
can a non-Muslim victim prove her case against a Muslim rapist, who would opt
for syariah laws, unlike the present setup which has sufficient protection for
rape victims, regardless of their faith.

But more than that, PAS' argument that the western model is bad does not hold

The Transparency International 2003 Corruption Perception Index, for example,
did not have a place in the top 25 for any of the OIC member countries.

In fact, more than half, mostly Arab and African countries, are ranked in the
last 21 countries out of 133 countries.

Saudi Arabia,
for example, where elections do not exist, is ranked 46th while Sudan,
which PAS sees as a model, is 106th.

It might interest PAS to know that Indonesia
and Egypt, where
Muslims form the majority, consider themselves secular countries.

Finally, Malaysians still do not know how PAS intends to manage the country's
economic development if it forms the next Federal Government but as of now, the
alarm bells are ringing for non-Muslims.