Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Secular Parties Cooperating With Theocracy Advocates

Written by johnleemk on 12:09:57 pm Apr 12, 2007.

The subject of an Islamic theocracy is the elephant in the room many opposition politicians have yet to sufficiently address. The fact that much of the country's population — especially the non-Muslims — is opposed to an Islamic state is one that the ruling Barisan Nasional regime has not shrunk from exploiting.

Today, the voters in the constituency of Machap, Melaka, went to the polls to replace their late state assemblyman, Poh Ah Tiam. The election was a straight fight between some BN candidate whose name I can't recall, and some Democratic Action Party candidate whose name I also cannot remember. (Needless to say, the BN fella' won.)

Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that BN had been distributing videos of a Parti Keadilan Rakyat campaigner telling voters that a vote for the Democratic Action Party was tantamount to a vote for PKR and the Islamic party, PAS, which comprise the Barisan Alternatif coalition.

The Election Commission also said it had taken down several PAS flags which had been illegally put up. (It's apparently illegal to campaign for your party in an election you're not contesting — a rather pointless infringement of the freedom of speech.)

Obviously, BN is trying to link the DAP with PAS by arguing that there is a secret pact between the two parties that would result in an Islamic theocracy if the DAP candidate won. One would think that the DAP might have the answer to this allegation down pat; after all, they left Barisan Alternatif precisely because of their disagreement with PAS over this theocracy thing.

And yet, the DAP seems remarkably silent on the issue. Malaysiakini is subtly but markedly biased towards the opposition, and yet it has not carried any statement by the DAP denying that they share a common platform with BA (and by extension PAS). The DAP election strategist, Liew Chin Thong, was merely quoted as alleging that BN was behind the circulation of PAS campaign material.

The DAP and PKR have to address the touchy issue of Islam's role in the public sphere. Both the DAP and PKR have predicated themselves on being able to appeal to the minority non-Malay and non-Muslim communities.

They both claim to be able to represent all Malaysians. Yet an Islamic theocracy would directly impede their ability to do just this. (For those who argue that an Islamic state would be fair and just to non-Muslims, I will deal with this subject in a later article.)

Nevertheless, the DAP and PKR cannot disown PAS for reasons of their own — mainly to do with political expediency and pragmatism. Rejecting PAS out of hand is pretty dumb if you are part of the opposition in Malaysian politics.

Still, there must be a way for the DAP and PKR, which are both non-racial and non-religious in outlook, to present their association with PAS in a positive light. Importantly, they must highlight the need for cooperation with PAS on certain issues, and also that cooperation on these particular things does not imply cooperation on the issue of an Islamic theocracy.

How, then, to accomplish this? The answer seems obvious to me — though it may not be so to many, especially those unfamiliar with the nuances of politics as a member of the opposition in Malaysia. The solution to this conundrum will be the subject of a future article. My solution may not be the best one out there, but the important lesson is this: the opposition parties must be able to justify their association with PAS, and emphasise that this not mean cooperation on the Islamic state issue.

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