On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Be careful what we wish for

IT’S incredulous. PAS Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen have been compelled to take an oath to divorce their wives if they quit or jump to another party.

The news, which has been a hot topic in the political and media circle, has kicked off a controversy.

Even Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who is regarded as a moderate in the conservative party, does not see why anyone would want to question what PAS is doing.

It is perfectly acceptable to him. He has been quoted as saying that the oath is not against Islamic teachings as Prophet Muhammad and his companions also did the same thing and were willing to sacrifice their families and belongings.

But others, including religious scholars, have shot down the argument, saying the Prophet’s companions did not do that because of politics.

Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Hussani Zakaria explained the oath was made by the companions to show their loyalty and to defend the Prophet.

“If we want to take an oath for the sake of the party, then divorcing wives should not come into the picture,” he said.

Problematic mix

Even the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Asso­ciation has questioned the mind-blowing decision of PAS.

But this is what happens when politics is mixed with religion; for that matter, problems too arise when politics and business are not separated.

There was a time when PAS labelled Umno as infidel because of the latter’s partnership with the MCA and the MIC.

PAS leaders and followers, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu, refused to pray in the same mosque as Umno members. Even marriages with Umno members were shunned.

But now, PAS is openly working with the DAP, PKR and even Parti Sosialis Malaysia. So, politics is essentially expedient in nature, not about religion, as PAS leaders would want its members to believe.

The reality is that PAS leaders, behind the flowing robes, turbans and beards, are just politicians who can cut deals for power and position.

Being able to walk the corridors of power in Putrajaya is a tempting goal, whether it is via cooperating with Umno or PKR.

It has showed that its leaders are quite prepared to work with Umno for purported Muslim unity after telling its non-Muslim listeners that Umno is a communal party.

But PAS is also consistent on certain issues. As much as it wants to win over non-Muslim votes, exploiting their resentment against Umno, it has been unable to fully convince the non-Muslims of their readiness to shed their orthodox slant.

The liberal lifestyle enjoyed by Malaysians is at stake if progressive and liberal forces continue to lose their battle.

Gaming and drinking liquor may be frowned upon by all religions but democracy is also about the right to make choices. We have the right to decide for ourselves whether we want to drink or not. If the sale of beer is restricted, as pursued by PAS, would it be followed with wine as the next step?

Wine is used in many churches as part of the Eucharist, a commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion.

PAS has put it plainly that it wants to set up a Saudi Arabian-style Islamic state, including chipping away the secular aspect of the Federal Constitution. If non-Muslim supporters continue to strengthen PAS, they are doing so with their eyes open.

The people of Iran overthrew the corrupt Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi monarchy in 1979 because they were against the excesses of his regime. They replaced him with Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, whose return from exile was greeted by millions of Iranians.

Today, the idealistic young set of Iran has found that you have to be careful with what you wish for. Human rights continue to be violated and polls rigged with theologians holding on to power in the name of religion.

Closed debate

In Malaysia, non-Muslims who question PAS leaders have been told to shut up because they are not qualified to debate due to their lack of knowledge on Islam or simply because they are not Muslims.

Activists like Sisters in Islam can tell you the kind of harassment they have to face simply because their liberal views do not match the views of those who push the conservative line.

We are still struggling to open up the demo­cratic space, and discourse often degenerates to name calling and threats, especially in the blogosphere, often by those hiding behind anonymity.

When civil issues become entangled with religious concerns, the debate becomes even more emotional and often the louder ones drown out their opponents.

Even former Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, despite his Islamic credentials, has found out how vicious those who evoke rules and regulations in the name of religion can be.

But those who use God’s name should beware that they too can suffer a similar fate because they are mere mortals like everyone else.