This week we have two good news. The Prime Minister has, as expected, postponed Umno election to another 18 months; and after that, there will be no contest for the president’s post because it will be too close to the general election. So he will lead the BN for the next GE. This is good news. The second one is a rumour that after Hari Raya, a new Islamist Malay party composed of moderates from PAS will emerge.
Some have described this group as “progressive” although my friend Raja Petra in Manchester considers PAS progressives a joke. Raja Petra thinks that, when it comes to religious matters, PAS Malays believe the same things as those in UMNO or in any other party—the only difference is that “PAS progressives” are in bed with DAP.
I think it’s not wrong for them to call themselves progressives although there are certainly different degrees of progressiveness. But this breakaway group is at least prepared to honour the Pakatan Rakyat’s Common Policy Framework.
They want the consensus formula in Pakatan to continue. Willing to keep your promise is a good first step to becoming progressive.
Anyway, what I want to write about today is the exciting prospect of the contributions this new party can make towards Malaysian politics. The party must first remain “ for Muslims only”, at least for now , because that’s the only chance they have to challenge PAS. Already they have no turban and skull cap in their daily attire ; this will handicap them ; so to bring non Muslims in will be added problems for the new party. It will be another PKR and disastrous for Mat Sabu and friends.
If the party can be a face of an “intellectual Islam” and not the present holier-than-thou version; if it can offer Malays a political Islam that abhors corruption and abuse of power; if it can struggle for justice of all Malaysians; if it can somehow bring Islamic ideas home to roost but nonetheless always be able to accommodate modern-day realities; then that’s the party of the future . This is not easy to achieve though , because we have no intellectual traditions , and Muslims only here know islam as the Dos and Donts . Its all about punishment. That’s why the Ulamaks are pushing for Hudud and other criminal laws. The new group must however try to bring into public affairs a different idea of Islam that is kind and forgiving.
It will be both a test and opportunity for Malays to decide what kind of future they want for themselves and the country. If they still choose UMNO then they will have to live with poor governance, abuse of power and never-ending financial scandals.
UMNO members today burn flags; soon some of the more misguided amongst them might soon be persuaded to burn down buildings. UMNO has also successfully bred some greedy leaders who seem to believe that money and power justify and legitimise anything. If Malays choose UMNO, then more of such leaders are likely to emerge.
If Malays choose PAS then we will probably have more wannabe-Taliban warriors, not just in their modes of dress but also in their thinking. Malays will be talking about God every day but will do nothing godly in their actions and deeds.
Malaysia be like any other failed so-called “Muslim” countries where governments can’t even collect rubbish properly. There will be corruption and poor governance. Women and minorities will be treated as second- or third-class citizens, and we will all have to live with moral police roaming the streets and sticking their sanctimonious noses into our offices and homes. In such a scenario, the prospect of Sabah and Sarawak breaking away will become more real.
The new party must of course be mindful of potential accusations that it’s no more than a wing of DAP. This is a matter that they must not gloss over. It’s a real problem for Malays to support such a party if it appears to be a DAP surrogate.
For the new party to be successful it must be independent financially and intellectually as well as ideologically strong. It needs an economic plan that supports the poor, even their other partners are against them. The new party must fight for the underclass because that’s what Islam is about.
These objectives are not difficult to achieve because the new party will have some of the finest Malay-Muslim leaders available today: Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli, Salahuddin Ayub, Khalid Abdul Samad, Datuk Mahfuz Omar, Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Mohamad Sabu, Datuk Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah , Mazlan Alimin and many others who are hardy politicians and have unique strengths.
Together, they can give UMNO and PAS ulama a run for their money any day.