JUNE 2 — PAS gets to pick its leadership again, and so much is made of how much different PAS has become in the last five years.
Has PAS become a different party or has it become a party more adept to appearing different?
The core battle in PAS, and it even predates the rise of Erdogan or even the Ayatollah, has been about it being a Malay party or a party of egalitarian Islam.
The early years
In many ways, PAS is not to be blamed. Political entities are often reflections of their society, their norms and development.
PAS started as the other. As being not Umno. The formation of Umno from all Malay associations, gave way soon after the retraction of the Malayan Union.
Umno was formed as single issue movement, opposing the Malayan Union, and its path to a multi-agenda-ed party resulted in the bleeding of groups not keen on the vision of Malay unity or Malay unity as the basis of nationhood.
There were compendiums of interconnected events which led to less emphasis of integrating the British subjects of Malaya, but to thrust Malayness as a basis of national struggle.
In truth, what that meant was never really examined, just promoted.
When Dr Burhanuddin Helmy discarded Umno — as his egalitarian and more working class driven ideals to him were not hoisted by the party — and went on to lead the most east coast party, the tone was set.
Through different leaders and different times, PAS went through various reincarnations — from “we don’t like pendatangs in this Malay land”, to “ we object to Borneo joining the Malay states”, to “a spirit of togetherness in BN”, to “We regret our BN days”, to “Lead us from damnation, clerics sirs”, to “We are not with Umno, and we are not with DAP, we are PAS” to “In government in four states”.
The here and now
PAS likes the strides it has made in the last few years, but those strides have been made on the back of cooperation with non-traditional partners and non-traditional values.
The echoes of Malay exclusivity has passed, and a new spirit of inclusion is fought by both the Erdogan and the traditionalists in the party, because they have as any other party in the history of politics has, learnt to keep what works.
Multiculturalism and more so, showing a pointed distinction from Umno’s perceived exclusionism has transformed the party to the fringe of mainstream.
But has it the stomach for real alterations of its views?
Will it emphasis more on development and better income for its Muslim constituents than worrying sick about their moral state.
Alcohol bans, entertainment bans now are guised in terms like alcohol rationalisationa/limitation and guided entertainment.
The ambiguity of their moral position of Muslims does come to the heart of the matter.
Will they fall for the Umno trap of naming things in Arab (businesses, financial instruments, intellectual terms etc) in order to appear Islamic, or will they rely on keeping things in a Malay speaking country in Malay and focus on the content of the approach.
Can there be just distribution of state support to SMEs rather than focusing on large companies linked to the government?
Are PAS committed to that?
Will PAS abandon their moral outrage for both Muslims and other Malaysians on the basis that those are the personal choices of individuals and the state cannot possibly force a perceived “good” on a person.
Their vision of a nation imbued with the goodness of Islam must obviously be about distinguishing window dressing and change that makes us all better human beings on our own volition.
The Taliban used to beat men who did not pray, and yes, PAS is nowhere near the madmen now in caves, but are they philosophically removed from the idea of force.
The people of this country (Muslims included), the large numbers that are not members or supporters of PAS, question that of PAS.
Is PAS that party of change? Irrespective of who wins, although in all honesty, the winners list would be a decisive indicator of what the party’s grassroots think of change.
For every Khalid Samad who addresses a church congregation there are tens of PAS members who feel uncomfortable with multiculturalism.
Therefore there will be no wholesale changes in the immediate future, but the makeup of the new leadership will suggest strongly whether that change is going to be cultivated in the party.
Is PAS ready, or will it just pass the buck?