Friday, 11 February 2011

At odds with each other

ANALYSIS By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY



PAS is inherently conservative and wants to Islamise daily life. The DAP has to understand and accept that through its rapport and close cooperation with the party, it is helping to advance intolerance and a narrow view of a great religion.

NO MATTER how hard liberals in PAS, a minority in the party, try to limit the damage and paste over the excesses of the conservative majority, the party’s true face keeps surfacing every now and then, severely embarrassing the Pakatan Rakyat coalition whose secular member, the Chinese-majority DAP, is left to carry the brunt of the damage.

From banning alcohol to proposing chopping off hands for theft to hudud laws, it is the DAP that has to scramble to defend, deny, explain or justify the excesses of its ally PAS.

The DAP’s task is made difficult because PAS is unable to rationalise between its desire to Islamise daily life to respecting fundamental liberties and the secular legal foundations of the country.

The latest outburst by PAS Youth leader Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, 41, to police society on Valentine’s Day has all the top DAP leaders – from adviser Lim Kit Siang to Selangor Speaker Datuk Teng Chang Khim and Dapsy leader Anthony Loke – working overtime to limit the damage, assure the public, refute the claim and criticise Nasrudin, a rising hardliner in PAS.

Nasrudin, who particularly targets Valentine’s Day, a Western practice that is now marked the world over as a day to celebrate affection, is into moral policing in daily life.

He is a leading advocate in PAS and in conservative Islamic circles for a sin-free society through the application of strict Islamic rules.

Nasrudin, elected as PAS Youth leader in 2009, announced on Wednesday that serious measures would be taken to quell “immoral acts” during Valentine’s Day in the Pakatan-ruled states of Kelantan, Kedah, Selangor and Penang.

The crackdown is part of the PAS campaign to instil sin-free living and will include searches and raids by local authorities, police action and distribution of pamphlets on the virtues of Muslim morality.

“We have identified spots in these states which are used by lovers and we are deploying local religious department officials, party members and Rela to stop acts like casual sex, which violates Islam,” Nasrudin reportedly told the AFP news agency which flashed the statement worldwide.

He has since said he was misquoted but his inclination for moral policing is well known.

PAS liberals like Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, feminist NGO Sisters in Islam and DAP leaders criticised Nasrudin, questioned his credentials and authority to implement the measures and virtually told him to “shut up”.

Khalid and a few others like him are moderate Muslims and liberal in their views on contentious issues like hudud laws, alcohol consumption and moral policing, which are best left to the individual and family to decide.

Such leaders are far and few in PAS. Because the same “morality issues” keep cropping up and from a wide range of PAS leaders, so it cannot be dismissed as the odd behaviour of a few.

In fact, leaders like Khalid are the odd ones, trying and often failing to defend a “moderate” position in a conservative, fundamentalist party like PAS.

One cannot deny that PAS, being a religious party, is inherently conservative and bent on imposing its narrow view on society.

This is what the DAP has to understand and accept, that through its rapport and close cooperation with PAS, it is helping to advance intolerance and a narrow view of a great religion and not the pluralism and multi-culturalism that are the pillars of the “Malay­sian Malaysia” concept, the party’s founding philosophy.

It is not enough for DAP leaders to each time deny, reject, justify or assure the public on the excesses of PAS leaders but to engage with PAS and find an acceptable and permanent solution that is consistent with the Federal Constitution.

If a permanent solution is impossible, then the DAP should reappraise its pact with PAS.

Being members of the same political coalition and having a common political agenda and policy framework, they should be able to eliminate ambiguities, offer the rakyat a dependable solution and permanently end the pretence.

Nasrudin, from Kuantan, enjoys a wide following in PAS and outside for his uncompromising views on sin and morality.

He has been consistent in his views from when he was an Islamic student leader in 1992 till now, as the PAS Youth chief.

His early education was in government schools in Felda Keratong but his formative years were at the Maktab Ittibai Sunnah, Negri Sem­bilan and later at the famous Madra­sah Ad-Diniah al-Bakriah, Kelantan.

Married with six children, Nasrudin continued his higher education at the Ma’ahad Fathul Islami and at Al-Azhar University.

He returned to build a reputation as a devoted missionary, strong supporter of madrasah education, blogger and writer on Islamic issues.

Always in a turban, his advocacy makes him a rising star in PAS. As PAS Youth chief, he is member of the party’s Syura Council.

He stood for the Maran parliamentary seat in 2008 but lost to Umno’s Ismail Muttalib by a big margin.

This is not the first time Nasrudin has come under fire for his statements. Last year, he blamed Valen­tine’s Day and New Year celebrations as among the main causes of baby dumping.

Nasrudin’s background, education, beliefs and strong networking skills make him an ideal PAS leader of the future but in his conservatism, he is the antithesis of Khalid and his moderate philosophy.

The PAS grassroots endorsed Nasrudin, electing him youth chief in 2009 – the year when delegates at the party election in Shah Alam wiped out PAS moderates like Kelantan exco member Datuk Husam Musa, Khalid himself and others, leaving them isolated and fighting a rising conservative tide in PAS best represented by leaders like Nasrudin.

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