Malaysia

Pakatan fears PAS puritans putting non-Muslim vote at risk

Hadi was asked to convince the Syura Council to change its mind on the “Allah” issue. — File picHadi was asked to convince the Syura Council to change its mind on the “Allah” issue. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 ― There is concern among Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) rank-and-file that PAS risks losing the pact’s non-Muslim vote in Election 2013 due to the Islamist party’s puritanical restrictions for the word “Allah” and its gender-segregation policies in Kedah and Kelantan.

Several PR leaders and lawmakers have admitted the controversies are hurting the pact’s image ahead of the polls due by June, but hope discreet dialogue will blunt the conservative Islamists’ influence in PAS policies.

DAP national chairman Karpal Singh asked PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang over the weekend to get the party’s top policy-making body ― the Majlis Syura ― to reverse its ruling that the Arabic word “Allah” could not be translated to or from other languages as it is specifically used by Muslims to refer to God.

“The recent ruling by the council that the word ‘Allah’ cannot be used by non-Muslims contradicts the position taken by the leadership of Pakatan component parties,” Karpal had said, adding it would affect his fellow Sikhs as the word appears in their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Pointing out that elections are around the corner, the Bukit Gelugor MP said the PAS-led Kedah government should stop “rocking the boat” by issuing guidelines on dress codes for women as it did recently for Chinese New Year celebrations in the state.

The ruling has since been modified for cultural events but caused some ripples among the non-Malays and has become a campaign issue for Barisan Nasional (BN) parties.

DAP Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching had slammed PAS over the Kedah Chinese New Year guidelines, saying the policy would sabotage PR’s polls preparations by alienating Chinese support.

A PAS leader who declined to be named admitted that the party’s conservative stance would have an effect on support from the non-Muslim electorate.

“There is an impact and we have to mitigate it,” he said, adding the conservatives held sway as they controlled the party’s top leadership.

Other DAP and PKR leaders were circumspect about the “Allah” issue and PAS rulings that have affected non-Muslims in Kedah and Kelantan.

DAP’s Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong said it was public knowledge that his party and PAS were split on the issues although he did not speak about the effects of the PAS policies.

“We have differences but we‘ll solve it through dialogue,” Liew told The Malaysian Insider.

PKR Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusof said the “Allah” issue was just a distraction and believed issues like corruption among those in power would continue to bring support to the coalition.

“For me it’s a distraction from the great work PAS had done in the past. PAS has been co-operating really well with other (PR) component parties,” he said.

PAS central working committee member Khalid Abdul Samad said that despite his party’s shortcomings, it had not denied non-Muslims the right to voice their opinion or disagreement over religious disputes.

“I do not wish to argue out in detail on the issue itself but let me just say this: If BN wins there will be no room for change or open discussion,” the Shah Alam MP said in an essay for The Malaysian Insider two days ago.

“PAS, for all its weaknesses, is at least willing to discuss the issues with non-Muslims and respect their rights.

“PAS will be ever willing to face everyone to explain its stand. Needless to say there are some Muslim ulama who do not fully agree with this stand and they can also be brought in to debate and clarify the issue further,” he said.

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