PAS outshines UMNO and PBB in religious freedom

By Pak Bui

PAS passes the religious freedom test, while Umno and PBB fail miserably.

At the crucial PAS elections, just concluded during its national meeting or muktamar, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang rejected a “Malay unity” government with Umno because PAS needs to stay away from “disgusting acts like corruption, money politics, slander, racism, lies and all manner of things which embarrass even our children who are watching us.

Who is responsible for these disgusting acts? Umno and BN – and therefore Sarawak BN and PBB, whose parliamentary seats ensure Umno remains in power.

“Politics needs to be cleaned up but this cannot be done by Umno-BN who have sullied it with their own hands,” Hadi continued. He said PAS rejected Umno’s racism and religious bigotry.

“We need to realise that a plural society is part of Islam’s political message. It is compulsory for us to spread the message of no compulsion in religion, and that Islam is fair for all… so that (non-Muslims) can see how Islam should be practised, and Islam’s image which has been tainted by Umno’s antics can be redeemed,” he added.

Umno has, indeed, tainted Islam’s image by trying to impose its religious bigotry on all Malaysians, including Malay-speaking Christians in Sabah andSarawak. Umno leaders like Najib Razak, Hishammuddin Hussein and Nazri Aziz have attempted to compel non-Muslims to stop using the word “Allah”.

Umno is exploiting religion for its own, very secular, political ends: to stay in power as long as possible, in order to skim off as much wealth as possible from the Malaysian people.

Sarawak’s BN has failed to stop Umno from punishing Christians for worshipping using a word that existed among the Arabs before Islam began, and a word that Christians use in all other Muslim countries worldwide. PBB leader Taib Mahmud has only once spoken out – during the recent state election campaign – calling the ban a “stupid idea”. The ban still stands.

How many stupid Umno ideas do we Sarawakians have to endure? There are impounded bibles, rising prices and stagnant incomes for ordinary people, corruption, the Bakun dam fiasco, inadequate health care, racist propaganda in our school textbooks, 80,000 ustaz religious teachers to indoctrinate our children, inept policing and soaring crime rates, and GST, to name some.

PBB accepts these stupid ideas because PBB, and Sarawak BN as a whole, are slaves to Umno.

Worlds apart in religious freedom

Umno and PAS are worlds apart when it comes to religious freedom. The PBB has blindly obeyed Umno’s instructions.Sarawak’s BN has allowed Christians to be penalised. The ban on ‘Allah’ has no credible reason, except to ensure the political survival of Umno and PBB.

Umno has banned bibles in the Malay language, even though such bibles have been used by Sabahans and Sarawakians for over a century – long before Umno ever came into being. PAS condemned Umno’s seizure of the bibles.

Umno turned a blind eye to extremist demonstrations, following the High Court ruling that the “Allah” ban was illegal. By encouraging such feverish hate-mongering, Umno set the stage for the burning of churches. Khalid Samad, a thoughtful PAS MP in Selangor, was among the first leaders to visit the burnt Metro Tabernacle church. PAS declared boldly that the use of the word ‘Allah’ is accepted for all ‘people of the book’. PAS insisted true Muslims cannot force non-believers to accept some kind of linguistic monopoly.

Umno tried to gain political mileage on the issue of forced conversions of minors, and ‘body-snatching’ of dead people whom the authorities claim had converted to Islam, even though the bereaved families objected. PAS refused to condone this practice.

Umno has systematically restricted approvals to build temples and places of worship for people of other creeds. PAS, on the other hand, has provided far more state land for Buddhist and Hindu temples and Chinese schools than Umno, when PAS led the government in Terengganu, and now in Kelantan and Kedah.

In 2009, Umno played on religious hatred against Hindus in Shah Alam. Umno watched thugs drag a cow head along the road, and then Umno dragged its feet over prosecuting the protestors. Home minister Hishammuddin was keener to persecute Malaysiakini for posting a video of the ‘cow head protest’, than to deal with religious provocation.

PAS responded to allegations that its members had participated in the ‘cow head’ protest, by insisting that no registered members were among the instigators.

Khalid Samad, MP for Shah Alam, pointed out the mainstream media had based its allegations of PAS members’ involvement on hearsay. He said PAS would sack any members proven to have participated.

The protest is contrary to the party’s principles and beliefs,” he said, in opposition to Umno’s attempts to silence Malaysiakini and prevent Malaysians from learning the truth.

Umno’s Utusan Malaysia lackeys have turned fiction into front-page headlines, by repeating baseless allegations by pro-Umno bloggers that Christian groups and the DAP are trying to establish Christianity as a state religion. Pas has condemned these lies as deliberate provocation.

Slander is backfiring

Umno has tried to slander opponents. Umno accused Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy and being a porn star (though the man in the notorious sex video resembles any number of fat Umno leaders more than Anwar).

PAS is aware that Umno’s sleazy mud-slinging is nothing more than a cynical tactic to claw back some of Umno’s lost support from Malay Muslims, and to try to divide PAS.

But PAS is not falling for it. PAS ulama or religious teachers have condemned Umno’s obscenities. Umno’s attempts to split PAS have not only failed, but have created even more unease among PAS members regarding Umno’s moral (as well as financial) corruption. The slander is backfiring.

But PAS is not merely maintaining its cohesion in the face of Umno attacks. PAS is also earning more support among the non-Muslims in peninsularMalaysia, winning 80% of the Chinese vote in the 2009 Bukit Gantang by-election in Perak, for example.

By encouraging untrammeled debate and open party elections, PAS is seeking to modernise its membership and policies. PAS has now made great advances in staking its ‘PAS for all’ political territory, and prioritising a ‘welfare state’ over an ‘Islamic state’. In contrast, Umno’s claim thatMalaysiais an ‘Islamic state’ (echoed by PBB’s Taib Mahmud) makes a mockery of the social justice that Muslims aspire to.

PAS champions the need for fairer wealth distribution, unlike Umno, PBB, or other members of the money-grubbing BN. Hadi told the PAS muktamar that “the wealth of the nation has been turned into the private property of leaders, while the rakyat struggle to make ends meet”. Sarawakians understand this better than most.

Umno and PBB remain unreformed, simply because their leaders cannot reform themselves.

Whatever the results of the PAS elections, we can be sure PAS members will continue to question their leaders, and work towards greater consensus in the party. Umno and PAS are unable to say the same for themselves.


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