THE declaration of Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is not shirking its responsibility to make Malaysia an Islamic state has spooked BN component parties, especially MCA.
Asyraf added that the government was providing the financial resources to empower Islam, and that this year alone, RM987 million was provided to the Education Ministry for Islamic education, and RM559 million to the Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
An Islamic state is a type of government primarily based on the application of sharia law for the dispensation of justice and the maintenance of law and order.
Jakim is a department under the PM’s office that employed the infamous Zamihan who was arrested for disparaging the sultan of Johor and Malaysian Chinese.
Asyraf’s statement caught MCA flatfooted. First MCA publicity spokesman Ti Lian Ker blamed Dr Mahathir, who is no longer with the government, then claimed that the Asyraf statement was political posturing to entice the Malay voters, and then threw MCA’s support behind the sultan of Johor.
BN component parties and opposition rubbished Asyraf controversial statement. Upko a BN component party in Sabah was quick to point out that Malaysia is a secular state and that BN has never put forward the stand that Malaysia would be an Islamic state in its election manifesto.
Upko also said Malaysia was founded as a secular state and Asyraf’s statement is an utter disregard of the spirit of the founding of this country as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Inter-Governmental Committee report.
While MCA and other BN component parties were trying hard to distance themselves from the uproar caused by Asyraf’s statement, the BN leadership chose to remain silent.
Asyraf statement was very clever as he brought BN into the play for an Islamic state. What we already know from press reports is that Umno has given its president Najib Razak the mandate to negotiate a pact with its long-term nemesis, the hardline opposition PAS. According to Umno information chief Annuar Musa, although the ideology and ways of Umno and PAS are different, the parties have the same DNA and goal, which is to champion Islam and the Malays. If they are having the same DNA, it is more than likely Umno will succumb to PAS pressure to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state and introduce hudud laws.
According to a Bloomberg Political July article, the move is simple maths for Najib: More than 60% of Malaysians are Muslim, and 50% are ethnic Malays, many of them in rural areas. He needs their votes for Umno to extend its 60 years in power, and closer ties with PAS may help.
It was reported on October 18 that a senior member of the PAS-led Kelantan government hopes the Dewan Rakyat Speaker will allow debate on a bill seeking to impose stricter sharia penalties at the upcoming parliamentary sitting. Mohamed Fadzli Hassan said non-Muslims should respect Muslim rights by not objecting to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1965 (Act 355), or RUU355. Fadzli also said non-Muslims should respect the rights of Muslims to comprehensively practise the teachings of their religion.
I find Fadzli’s speech as confusing as the speeches of most of the PAS leaders. First, there is no evidence to show that non-Muslims has shown any disrespect for Muslims’ rights to comprehensively practise the teachings of Islam. You can imagine what will happen if they do. The teaching of Islam and the imposition of new sharia laws are totally different matters. PAS should not pull wool over the people’s eyes.
Second, if there are any objections to RUU355, it has come from Malaysians from all walks of life including moderate Muslims who fear that PAS is going to turn Malaysia into a Taliban state and destroy the advancements we have made as a multi-racial, multi-religious society over the last 54 years. RUU355 will wreck the economy as anything Islamic in today’s environment is associated with hard-line Islamists and ISIS.
In the recent killing of 59 people in Las Vegas, the first thing the authorities did was to determine if it was linked to Islamic terrorism.
In an interview in March, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali acknowledged that non-Muslims are against Islamic criminal law amendments as they perceive them as another step towards the Islamisation of Malaysia. He recognised the situation is different in East Malaysia, saying,“So maybe, just maybe, we may exclude Sabah (and Sarawak), to make it different, and even reduce the sentences”.
The big “maybe” is not comforting to East Malaysians who want Malaysia to remain a secular state.
The RUU355 fight is not over yet and the statement from Asyraf adds to the fear that Umno will support the passing of RUU355 to please PAS to win the next election.
Former Umno MP Mohamed Tawfik Ismail filed a suit in March seeking to declare PAS Private Member’s Bill as unconstitutional as it flouts Parliament procedures. Tawfik said the Dewan Rakyat’s decision to allow a motion to table the PAS president’s bill was in contempt of the Conference of Rulers whose prior consent was not obtained. Tawfik is seeking 10 declarations and orders that would effectively stop the tabling of the bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.
PAS is a political party and it loves playing to the gallery. It tries to win public sympathy using religion. Do not be fooled by their Islamic cloth as they are mere politicians. Political posturing and loud rhetoric are the hallmarks of PAS. With the sultans of Johor and Selangor exerting their powers over religious matters in the past few weeks, it may be wise for PAS as a political party to consult the rulers before making any further statements related to religion.
Religion and Islamic state should not be used as a distraction from the underlying issues facing the nation. Umno has always been a formidable force in the general elections but this time it’s different. Rural Malays have become disenchanted with the ruling party on issues like 1MDB, corruption in government ministries, and the Felda fiasco while they have had to contend with the high cost of living since the introduction of GST.
The lower income groups are struggling to make ends meet while they see elitist squander billions meant for development in their respective areas. Despite all the economic positives touted buy our ministers, the wealth of the nation has not trickled down to the ordinary person on the street.
Recently, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission announced that it was probing some 60 companies suspected of mishandling an estimated RM1.5 billion out of the RM7.5 billion allocated for projects for the benefit of rural folk, between 2010 and 2015.
After last year’s Sabah Water Works corruption case, which MACC labelled as one of the biggest corruption cases it has ever encountered, another one crops up. Some say it is victimisation of an opponent party. That may be the case, but can anyone honestly defend corruption?
PAS would do the country a favour by speaking up about God’s anger at those who commit corruption rather than by pursuing RUU355. Whatever laws PAS introduces, they will never be effective unless the vested authorities act without fear or favour.