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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wan Azizah, ‘not in the near future’ is unacceptable



Unlike so many of them, however, I also take issue with the term ‘Islamic state’, and for the very same reason: there is nothing Islamic about a state. The two concepts have nothing in common.”
- Mehdi Hassan
Surely anyone who reads my columns would know that I have to comment on what PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said in that Al Jazeera interview with the always reliable Mehdi Hassan whose work I have followed for years.
Before I begin, a shout-out to Dean Johns whose column ‘Blasphemy by believers?’ is a timely reminder that a wide range of religious extremists exists amongst us and we should confront them at every turn. I look forward to reading more of Johns’ columns, especially those where he hoists the agnostic/atheist flag.
We know, or we think we know, the kind of “Islamic” politics that PKR advocates. Readers should know the kind of politics Mehdi Hassan advocates. A good place to start if one is not familiar with Mehdi’s work is his article in the New Statesman, ‘There is nothing Islamic about a state’, where he fires the first of many salvos against the duplicity of many Islamists who argue otherwise.
The following is a brief snippet - “...contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity. Its supporters tend to mumble vaguely about this or that verse from the Quran, or make vacuous references to the life example of the Prophet Muhammad. But the Quran prescribes no particular model of government, nor does it detail a specific political programme that Muslims must adopt. In fact, the concept of the state appears nowhere in the Quran.”
"We want the votes of the people on the ground," the PKR president said, which is the kind of deflection that really means, “We want the Muslim votes on the ground.” Far too many friends from Islamic parties have warned me that it would be unwise to dismiss PAS and hold the kind of Islam it propagates has on many Muslims in Malaysia. The fact that they have become to the political mainstream is the fault of the opposition.
I get the conundrum politicians like Wan Azizah are in. In our comfortable echo chambers, we are not exposed to Muslims who believe that Islam needs to be defended - not necessarily by Umno - and that Islamic political parties have to pay attention to the concerns of those Muslims. DAP insiders tell me of the brewing tension between the evangelical wing and the traditional DAP vox populi, and while the DAP can abandon religious rhetoric in favour of secular ideas and be assured of support (so far), the Malay/Muslim components are not so lucky.
PKR has always been the weak link in any secular moves that the opposition has attempted to make. Attempting to balance the zealotry of PAS and with the more secular agenda of the DAP was far easier when the late Tok Guru was around. While the DAP intruded into mosques and religious terrain of the Islamists, their counterparts were working their way into the mainstream of oppositional politics.
Those of us were skeptical of the ‘PAS for All’ kool aid were dismissed, and while there is some truth that PAS was not as zealous of its Islamic agenda during the feel-good era of Pakatan Rakyat, the reality is the truth of the compromises and backroom deals that would have shocked the average opposition supporter were well hidden. When exposed by political operatives from the MIC and MCA, they were of course shouted down as “running dogs” of the Umno establishment.
PAS is the gatekeeper to those votes that a political party like PKR needs. During the heady days of the reformasi movement, it was PAS that was the main player in Anwar Ibrahim’s moves against the establishment. I made many friends from PAS in those days and although we are still very friendly, we know where the other is coming from and we know that we will never find common ground.
God’s law?
This lie that there is a difference between “god’s law” and “implementation” is the strategy of those so-called “moderate” Muslims who pay lip service to the idea of secularism. This idea that when the situation is “perfect” then we can have hudud is absurd.
Think about it. If the situation is “all the things that are supposed to be in line of justice are there”, then why would there be a need to inflict such barbarity as stoning, amputations and beheadings? Most of the civilised world, there are moves against such sanctions as the death penalty and here this belief in an Islamic utopia where all is supposedly just, criminals would be stoned, limbs amputated and beheadings in public squares is something that is longed for.
Some of you may think that “not in the near future” saves you from living in a time where these types of Islamic punishments are not common or even that as a non-Muslim, you would be spared from such punishments.
Go back to what I wrote in ‘This is what an Islamic state looks like’, about power and faith - “However, forcing non-believers to submit to your authority, especially if they hold religious beliefs of their own or do not wish to be bound by any religious dogma, demonstrates power on a fundamental level. It is brute force, a demonstration that non-Muslim beliefs are inconsequential and that they are bound to Islamic law even if they choose not to believe. They will be forced to acknowledge that even if they do not submit, they are not beyond Islamic law and will suffer the consequences of deviations from such religious observances.”
As I have argued relentlessly in many articles, there is not one shred of empirical evidence that non-Muslims are not affected by the laws imposed on their fellow Muslim Malaysian citizens. Do you really think that Islamists would be satisfied with keeping their religion confined only to other Muslims? Do you really believe that after decades of Islam invading our public and private spaces that suddenly there would be this ideal version of Islam that co-exists with the various other faiths in this country?
I mean, come on. When political prisoner Anwar talks about “empowering the syariah courts” how does this jive with his waffling about “holistic reform”? No wonder PAS is confused. At least, they are upfront about their zealotry. But then again, they do not have to cater to the base that PKR wants a share of.
While the Perkasa president engages in water sports, this idea that anyone is terrified of the judgment of the almighty is pure bunkum. Anytime a politician talks about religion, always assume he or she is lying and this goes for any religion.
Think about this for a moment. The PKR president claimed, “As a Muslim, hudud law must be accepted as God's law, but that implementation was a different matter altogether”, which merely means that according to Wan Azizah, the only issue that separates the beliefs of PKR, DAP and Amanah Muslims from those of PAS Muslims is “implementation”.
Do you see the trouble we are in?

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

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