Laman Webantu   KM2: 6176 File Size: 3.4 Kb *

| KM2 Index |

FEER: The Islamic Party's Malay Dilemma
By S. Jayasankaran

19/10/2001 1:47 pm Fri

[Rencana ini seperti dikarang oleh Umno sahaja tetapi tidak mengapa - kita siarkan juga kerana ada banyak pengajaran darinya. Dalam PAS ada banyak pihak yang begitu pandai bercakap tetapi mereka tidakpun ditemui oleh FEER. Salah FEER kah atau salah mereka? - Editor]


By S. Jayasankaran and Lorien Holland

Issue cover-dated October 25, 2001

Malaysia doesn't normally have anti-United States protests. But on October 12, some 3,000 Malay Muslims broke the mould and gathered outside the United States embassy in Kuala Lumpur to voice their disapproval of the attacks on Afghanistan. Despite the international nature of the protests, local politics was just as much on the agenda.

The demonstrators, mostly members of the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia, or Pas, were taking another step in the lengthy battle for the hearts and minds of Malaysia's ethnic Malay voters--and hoping to discredit the government's more moderate and measured stance on the Afghan crisis.

"Pas is trying to use an international matter to gain local political mileage," says cabinet minister Lim Keng Yaik. "It's very dangerous."

Although Pas counts followers stretching from liberal to deeply conservative, the September 11 terrorist attacks seem to have silenced the moderates within the party. The country's largest opposition party was quick to dub America "the mother of all terrorists" and its leaders declared a holy war against Washington for its retaliation against Afghanistan.

That is one reason why the opposition alliance, led by Pas and including the Democratic Action Party and the Keadilan Party, has all but collapsed. The Democratic Action Party pulled out last month. Then, in early October, Chandra Muzaffar, Keadilan's deputy president and chief ideologue, quit his party post and attacked Pas for supporting the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's dominant United Malays National Organization is on the defensive, walking a tightrope between outrage at the attacks in the U.S. and condemnation of the current air strikes against Afghanistan. That's because Pas's stand resonates with many Malay Muslims, who resent what they see as U.S. bias in Middle East policy. Malays comprise 60% of the population and, by taking up an inflexible position, Pas seems to be concentrating on them and giving up on trying to woo the non-Malays.

That could be a huge mistake because Pas's position, analysts say, could have alienated many moderate Malays as well. Back at the last elections in 1999, many of the ballots garnered by Pas were protest votes against the imprisonment of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. But Anwar, in an essay penned from jail earlier this month, came out strongly against Pas's position. He said he was "perturbed by the confusion among Muslims who responded to the attacks with a misplaced diatribe against the United States."

"The veil has finally dropped," says political analyst Farish Noor. "Now we know what Pas really stands for."