On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Don’t let anger cloud judgment

LET’S be frank. If you are living in Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Perak, there is a high possibility that you are an angry voter who wants to put a cross on the ballot paper for the Opposition.

Some are so upset with the Government, that it doesn’t really matter whether the candidate is from the DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat or PAS as long as he or she is in the Opposition.

Tomorrow’s leaders?: Turbaned teenaged boys walking past PAS banners and flags on Jalan Kuala Krai in Kelantan.

But this is what democracy is all about. Elections are about making a choice and essentially, in Malaysia, the voter votes for either Barisan Nasional or for the Opposition.

In middle-class urban Malaysia, it would seem that the fastest way to be popular these days is to ride the anti-establishment mood.

As for a journalist, he is deemed credible, courageous and objective when he takes a swipe at the leadership and backs the Opposition.

Those who talk about freedom of speech can be incredibly intolerant of contrasting viewpoints. Some resort to name-calling and personal attacks instead of trying to convince or debate a point.

Let’s put it this way. We know the current system is flawed. Many of us are unhappy with our institutions and certainly much more should be done.

The system needs an overhaul and much of the mismanagement and inefficiency is intolerable, but the question is whether there is a better alternative.

But when non-Muslims talk about wanting to vote PAS, which has no qualms about changing our way of life, then we need a serious re-think.

For the past two weeks, statements by PAS leaders have shown that they have not changed, not that they ever promised that they would change in the first place.

PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat told his listeners at Nikko Hotel that those who vote for PAS would go to heaven. I guess that will not include many non-believers like me.

Turbaned PAS president Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang said it was perfectly acceptable to character assassinate political rivals. Before that, he refused to shake the hand of his Barisan Nasional challenger on Nomination Day.

But that’s nothing unusual.

In 2003, I had my first taste of Hadi’s wrath when my colleague crime desk editor Lourdes Charles and I wrote about the meeting that the fiery PAS leader had with radical Indonesians like Abubakar Ba’asyir and Agus Dwikarna.

These figures are classified as terrorists by many countries because of their links with al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah.

Agus, who heads the militant Laskar Jundullah (Army of Allah) in Makassar, Sulawesi, is known for targeting American tourists in hotels. He is serving a 17-year jail term for illegal possession of explosives and suspected involvement in bombings in Manila and Jakarta.

The meeting, according to Indonesian academicians Dias Pradadimara and Burhan Junedding in the respectable magazine Inside Indonesia (October-December 2002), was a follow-up meeting of mujahidin in Yogjakarta to “integrate the aims and actions of all mujahidin to implement Islamic law.”

According to the writers, quasi-military groups from all over south Sulawesi were present.

The report irked Hadi, who admitted being at the meeting but said the Indonesian and Malaysian governments were aware of the three-day meeting and there was nothing sinister about it.

That’s fair enough.

But at a stadium in Terengganu, in front of thousands of supporters, he decreed that Charles and I were “anti-Islam” and “infidels”.

We subsequently received death threats and police reports had to be made. To be labelled “anti-Islam” is certainly serious. The police traced some of these calls but we decided not to pursue the matter, even though the culprits (PAS members) were identified.

Fast forward to 2008. Have things changed? No. There is still no place for non-Muslims in PAS, not even as associate members.

Incredibly, there are non-Muslims who are shamelessly contesting as members of the so-called PAS Supporters Club, not realising they have joined in to advocate the orthodox Islamic system being pursued by PAS.

That would mean more gender segregation in supermarket checkout lines, concerts and, of course, at swimming pools.

Yes, that would also mean watching movies with the lights on. If that is fine with you, then go ahead and vote for PAS.

Today, there are well-intentioned but misguided non-Muslims who are helping to campaign for PAS. Some even endorse the party even though it has a long history of criticising other religions.

The only excuse given by those who back PAS is that in Kelantan, there are temples and churches. What a pathetic argument because these places of worship exist in other states, too!

The PAS government removed deer statues in a Kota Baru roundabout when it took over Kelantan because it was unIslamic. Next, Hadi ordered the statue of the giant leatherback turtle in a Kuala Terengganu roundabout removed.

Yes, Kelantan has one of the biggest Buddha statues at Wat Machimaran in Tumpat but it has remained untouched because it has been there for a long time. Still, we remember how PAS cheered when the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddha carvings in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, deemed a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

True, there are local authorities in states controlled by the Barisan that have been unfair to many temple and church groups. Certainly, no one can deny that many of us cannot accept the ban on Christian books in Bahasa Indonesia.

But the action of certain extremist officers, at the lower level, should not be lumped as a policy endorsed by the Government. In these cases, the Government has intervened to put things right.

But we agree that these stop-gap measures cannot continue. There must be a clear and firm policy against officers who put non-Muslim religious groups in a fix.

And, yes, the local authorities should know better than to demolish a Hindu temple before Deepavali. It is simply wrong, and there are no two ways about it, even if it sits on illegal land, as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has conceded.

When such things happen, the Government gets the blame. These officers can only be regarded as saboteurs.

From supporting the blasting of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan to calling Umno “infidel” for working with non-Muslim political parties and to the late Shahnon Ahmad’s book, SHIT, PAS has consistently demonstrated what it wants to pursue.

There are new and moderate leaders like Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar and Datuk Husam Musa, but unfortunately, they are outnumbered by the likes of Hadi.

Let’s not send the wrong message to PAS by giving the impression that we endorse its agenda.

At a time when there is increasing conservatism in this country, with Muslim-based parties competing to show their religious fervour, it would be strategically wrong to endorse an Islamist party, simply to punish Umno.

The fact that PAS has stopped talking about implementing syariah law, for political expediency, doesn’t mean they have given up.

We must keep our liberal way of life. This is Malaysia, not the Middle East.

PAS’ Controversial Statements

Aug 15, 1997: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was labelled murtad (apostate) for his remarks over three Muslim contestants prosecuted by the Syariah Court in Selangor for taking part in a beauty contest.


July 16, 2002: PAS reportedly distributed posters depicting Dr Mahathir as a Catholic priest, labelled “Mahathir Paderi Besar Gereja”.

Aug 1, 2002: Former PAS MP Bunyamin Yaakob was investigated by police for alleging that Dr Mahathir had watched a pornographic video with his grandchildren.

Aug 12, 1999: The late PAS president Datuk Fadzil Noor allegedly linked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's family name with taking care of pigs. Fazdil later said he had no intention of insulting Abdullah but maintained his remarks were factually right.

March 3, 2004: PAS reportedly questioned Abdullah's integrity as a man of religion and attacked his late wife, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, for not wearing the tudung.

July 7, 2006: PAS Dewan Ulama chief Datuk Harun Taib labelled Umno as kafir (infidels). He said he was merely following PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's fatwa (decree) on April 7, 1981, that Umno was an infidel party.

Feb 18, 2008: PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said Umno members were orang utan as they did not know Islam or anything about the law.