Dennis Ignatius: Why would non-Muslims even think about negotiating with PAS?

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For their own survival, non-Muslim voters must not just decisively reject PAS in GE15 but any party that aligns itself with PAS as well.

PAS spiritual leader Hashim Jasin was reported to have said that “any party that agrees with the ummah unity agenda, we can negotiate with. In fact, we can even negotiate with non-Muslims.” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang echoed this as well.

But what is there for non-Muslims to negotiate with an extremist and bigoted party like PAS in the first place?

It is common knowledge that PAS’s so-called ‘ummah unity agenda’ is all about uniting Malay-Muslim political parties in an effort to ensure Malay-Muslim supremacy and entrench a political system that would disenfranchise and marginalize non-Malays. It’s an ethno-religious doctrine of racial and religious domination that is aimed at non-Muslims and non-Malays, a rehash of the Ketuanan Melayu construct with religious overtones.

Hadi has, for example, called for the exclusion of non-Muslims from senior government positions. He has also accused non-Muslims and non-Malays of being at the root of all corruption in Malaysia. Other PAS leaders have ridiculed non-Islamic religions. As far as PAS is concerned, non-Malays and non-Muslims are enemies not equal citizens. If PAS has its way, non-Muslims and non-Malays will be reduced to dhimmitude; second-class citizens and ‘pendatangs’ in their own land.

Given this hostile attitude towards non-Muslims and non-Malays, why would non-Muslims even think about negotiating with PAS? PAS has nothing to offer non-Muslims. Indeed, its vision of Malaysia – an intolerant, apartheid state premised upon narrow ethno-religious nationalism – would mean the extirpation of everything that is important to non-Muslim Malaysians.

Over the years we’ve seen the progressive diminution of the Malaysia envisaged by our founding fathers – a free, democratic and secular constitutional democracy that respects the rights of all its citizens and treats them with equal dignity. PAS is now inviting non-Muslims to participate in their further marginalization by removing all vestiges of what remains of the original promise of Malaysia. It would be utter folly for non-Muslims and non-Malays to join such a ghastly exercise in self-annihilation.

PAS leaders are hoping, of course, that their extreme ethno-religious agenda will catapult them to Putrajaya but it is the people of Malaysia – Malay-Muslims included – who are paying and will continue to pay a high price for such a misguided approach to nation-building.

Already, the extreme preoccupation with racial and religious domination has warped our values and hindered our progress. Instead of bringing forth the best and brightest to lead the nation, it has favoured the most incompetent if not the most mediocre of leaders. Mediocrity has in fact become so commonplace that we’ve forgotten what real leadership even looks like.

We’ve lost our moral compass too; we celebrate criminals and harass good men and women.  Our national institutions are compromised; corruption is rampant and out of control, and our education system churns out thousands upon thousands of graduates who cannot find employment. As well, we have now morphed into a nation where cultural diversity and tolerance is frowned upon in favour of an austere culture dictated by politicians posing as mullahs.

Many of our politicians may not admit it but our nation is in decline. If we don’t break free from this obsession with race and religion – an obsession that is stoked by PAS more than any other party – the Malaysia we know will be no more soon enough.

All told, PAS is the most destructive and disruptive political party in Malaysia. It is not for no reason that it has never won widespread popular support even among Muslims. At the height of its popularity, it managed to win no more than 27 out of the 222 seats in parliament. In the last election, it contested 157 seats but won only 18.

The only way they have obtained a seat at the cabinet table is by riding on the coattails of the more dominant parties. They thrive best when there is division and disunity. Present conditions – infighting and disunity among Malay-Muslim parties – are perfect for PAS. Once it determines which Malay party has a better chance of winning (probably UMNO rather than Bersatu), it will quickly offer to work with it, for the sake of the ummah, of course.

And, as usual, now that another election is approaching, PAS is doing its usual dance of deception and deceit by pretending to be moderate and reasonable. For their own survival, non-Muslim voters must not just decisively reject PAS in GE15 but any party that aligns itself with PAS as well. – Dennis Ignatius