Friday 5 June 2009

PAS' Cross-Road: Be a Non-Racial National Party to Win Government OR be a Marginalised Malay/Muslim-Centric Party Good Only for Fundamentalist Islam

Read here article by Farish Noor and here

PAS finding its way still


Dr. Farish Noor

Excerpts:Read here for more

The opening speech to the 55th Muktamar of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS should be read closely and given the consideration that is due to it, particularly as it comes from the party President himself, Ustaz Hadi Awang, and in some respects gives an accurate reflection of the state of the party and the mindset of its senior leadership.

It is interesting to note that the slogan for the Muktamar was ‘Islam leading the process of Change’ (Islam Memimpin Perubahan). Furthermore the speech was littered with numerous references to the Ulama of PAS and the role that the Ulama have played not only in the development of the party but also in the history of Malaysia as a whole.

PAS is still looking for its place and role in Malaysian politics, and by distancing itself substantially from UMNO and symbolically from the Pakatan, we get the impression of a PAS that feels the need to stand on its own two feet. Can this be read as a return to the Ulama-led politics of PAS from the 1980s to the late 1990s?

I would like to re-state the obvious fact that the term ‘Ulama’ should not be confused and essentialised solely to refer to religiously-trained and educated scholars.

For since the earliest days of Islamic education going back to the Ferenggi Mahal madrasah of Lucknow and its Dars-e Nizami curriculum, it should be noted that the term Ulama referred to scholars who were trained as BOTH scientific and religious scholars.

Hence it would be totally wrong for us to maintain this divisive dichotomy of ‘Ulama’ and ‘Professionals’ as the latter are likewise educated individuals trained in their special sciences and skills.

So why was the dichotomy introduced in the prelude to this Mukatamar, and why hasn’t anyone pointed out that professional scientists, technocrats, engineers and educationists should qualify as ‘Ulama’ too, to mean persons of skill and knowledge?

The subtle power-play between the two factions became rather obvious with too many references to the Ulama of PAS and the lament that their contribution have been marginalized.

No, nobody has undermined or downgraded the role of the Ulama in PAS or Malaysian politics: We are simply stating the historical fact that PAS’s development was the result of the efforts of Ulama, Scholars, professionals, activists and lay members as well…

Some Ulama in PAS (as in other Islamic parties worldwide) may not be comfortable with the idea of sharing power with professionals, but we need to understand that in the complex modern world of today we are not going to get anywhere in areas such as finance, transparency, anti-corruption etc without the help of some professional technocrats and accountants too. The religious scholars of PAS simply have to understand this simple fact once and for all.

The (PAS) Assembly's take on the Language issue was problematic to say the least. On more than one occasion, the national language – Bahasa Malaysia – was described as Bahasa Melayu, and thus re-essentialised as the linguistic and cultural backbone of one specific ethnic community.

We need to get our semantics right and de-racialised Bahasa Malaysia as the language of all Malaysian citizens if we seriously wish to build a new Malaysia that is racially, culturally and politically equal, to be shared by all Malaysians.

One of the first steps that has to be taken is to de-essentise our languages so that Mandarin is no longer seen as the exclusive monopoly of Malaysian Chinese, Tamil no longer seen as the monopoly of Malaysians of Indian origin, and Bahasa Malaysia as the common language of all Malaysian citizens.

But how can this ever happen if every community sticks to its narrow sense of identity and claims exclusive monopoly over the very language we use to communicate with each other?

I was impressed by the professionalism of those present and the efficient performance of the organizers.

But we sincerely hope and pray that PAS will throw its lot with its comrades in the Pakatan, and remember that PAS’s gains in March 2008 was the result of it being in the Pakatan.

For that reason, PAS’s leaders need to recognize the needs and demands of the Malaysian public, and be sensitive to the new political realities on the ground in Malaysia.

PAS has a vital role to play in Malaysia today and long into the future. Don’t let us down, PAS.
-Farish Noor

Related Article

Husam Slams PAS-Umno Talks

Read here for more

PAS deputy president candidate Datuk Husam Musa said it was too late for deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa to deny any plans for the party to join Umno.

Husam said,
"I am part of the top leadership so I know what really happened behind the scene. The truth will come out later.

If PAS compliments Umno, PAS will become the lackey. PAS cannot get more seats than Umno and Umno will remain the dominant party in the country. So that’s the end of PAS’ chances (to rule)," he said, stressing that PAS must be the alternative party to Umno.

"But if you complement Umno, you will be Minister in PM’s department. I won’t be satisfied because my boss will be under Umno. There is an agenda outside the party to smear my name. You can guess where it is coming from. It is from enemy outside the party.

I think I already sent a bold message to every level of the party. There should be no cooperation with Umno in terms of governance. If Umno is defeated later and they want to work with us then it is fine.

PAS must always be on top. If Umno is on top then there will be no change."

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