Monday, June 8, 2009

Angels, Demons, and Sisters

Tok Guru has described the prospect of PAS collaborating with Umno in a unity government as ‘ridiculous.’ As the Malaysiakini report notes, he sees Umno as practicing ‘gangsterism politics’ and appears adamantly opposed to such an alliance. This saga, of course raises the question: Why then, is the party president Abdul Hadi Awang so keen on pushing this idea of collaborating with those engaged in ‘gangsterism politics’?

Has Umno gotten to Abdul Hadi? Is that why he’s so eager to push this agenda forward? Is Abdul Hadi secretly harbouring greater personal political ambitions? Further, surely he wouldn’t be so emboldened if there was not a cadre within PAS that shares his ambition. At least I can’t imagine him being so isolated in the party and yet pursuing such an agenda. Indeed, we already know the party’s deputy president, Nasharuddin, also shares Abdul Hadi’s sentiment about the desire to rendezvous with Umno.

Tok Guru might not be too far off the mark in describing such intensions as ‘ridiculous’, but frankly, it really doesn’t quite sum up my sentiment about Abdul Hadi and Nasharuddin’s posturing. After what has transpired in Perak and various other instances of ‘gangsterism politics,’ needless to say, PAS would essentially be making a mockery of its credibility as the principled party. Absolutely asinine, absurd, preposterous, devious, and deceitful would be some of the ways I would describe PAS if it proceeds to ‘sleep with the devil.’ I can’t see there being too many ‘friends of PAS’ sticking around if the Abdul Hadi-Nasharuddin ‘axis of deceit’ manages to do what Tok Guru calls ‘ridiculous.’

Speaking of the ‘ridiculous,’ it is also about time PAS stopped harping on the case of Sisters in Islam. PAS has once again blundered and seems to be bent on alienating not only moderate Muslims, but all moderates. Such outlandish posturing – even within the confines of its own hard-core membership, does nothing but to further isolate PAS and reignite apprehensions of those moderates willing to give PAS a chance at building a more inclusive non-discriminatory and non-racist alliance. These PAS characters, so fearful of diversity of ideas, seem unable to comprehend two very obvious facts.

First, they seem to want to be oblivious to the reality that there are varying traditions and schools of thought within Islam. The history of Islam, if only these so-called scholars had any clue to appreciate it, is dotted with evidence of variations in thought, debates, and discourse. Of course all that does not matter. Neither does the fact that what constitutes ‘liberal’ ideas is also not sufficiently established.

Incidentally, on the pretext of wanting to deal with Umno, Abdul Hadi and his wing seems willing, supposedly, “to meet everyone to have an open discussion,” but then are perfectly at ease about calling for the Sisters in Islam to be banned. So it appears that Hadi’s religious tendencies don’t preclude him from dealing with those that supposedly engage in ‘gangsterism politics’ but it is highly problematic and objectionable for his party “to have an open discussion” with groups like Sisters in Islam.

Besides, exactly why are ‘liberal’ Islamic ideas – such as those attributed to the Sisters in Islam - supposedly less legitimate than the Taliban-ish orientation among some within PAS? Indeed, what seems blatantly obvious is the fact that PAS – seemingly not wanting to be outdone by Umno – would prefer to champion itself as the guardian of the faith at the expense of those it can exert power over. We have seen this drama between Umno and PAS many times over and it looks like PAS has now come up with another convenient target to exploit and score a few points in order to augment its so-called religious credentials.

Second, just when PAS seems to be making some reasonable in-roads with moderates across the religious spectrum who have become intensely disillusioned and disgusted with ‘gangsterism politics’ and willing to take some chances with PAS in a broader coalition, PAS seems to find a way to push the moderates away. Whether it is the ridiculous idea of ‘sleeping with the enemy’ or advocating banning the Sisters in Islam, PAS – like Umno – seems very prone to finding ways to shoot itself in the foot. The simple fact is, censoring peaceful groups (such as Sisters in Islam) and the free exchange of ideas never accomplished anything except the closing of the collective mind. Instead of celebrating the fact that the Sisters in Islam are committed to furthering social justice through faith, PAS seems more disposed to be displaying its Talibanistic tendencies.

While I continue to respect the voices of moderation and sensibility such as Husam Musa and Mohammad Nizar within PAS, I am appalled and sickened by the recent posturing on the above two matters by the party.

Sometimes, we become deceived and find it hard to distinguish between angels and demons – and other times, the difference is blatantly obvious.

G. Krishnan