Same old PAS

Old divisive themes, narrow views surface at party's annual assembly 

By Carolyn Hong, The Straits Times

The closing day of Parti Islam SeMalaysia's annual assembly was telling. Is this a party headed for moderation and openness? It does not appear so.

Speeches of delegates harked back to old divisive themes and narrow perspectives.

The party itself also passed a controversial motion asking the National Fatwa Council to investigate controversial women's group, Sisters-in-Islam, which often takes stands contrary to conservative beliefs.

'We are aware that their approach can easily be accepted by the Muslims, and this is dangerous as it can twist their aqidah (faith), especially the young and those who went through the secular education,' it said.

Two days ago, two male delegates criticised women reporters for not covering their hair in line with the Islamic dress code, and for mixing with their male colleagues.

Penang delegate Tapiudin Hamzah said even if the women did not own a tudung, they could use handkerchiefs or even rags.

The two men were taken to task by a senior women's leader, Dr Lo' Lo' Ghazali. 'PAS must be seen as an inclusive and not exclusive party. We need to use the soft approach by offering advice and not by trying to use force,' she said.

She added that the delegates should be more open as 'we are already a government in waiting'.

This neatly sums up the angst afflicting this Islamic party, which has been thrust onto the national stage after its unprecedented success with non-Muslims.

It won big in the general election last year with the help of non-Muslims who used to shun it. PAS is part of an opposition alliance with the multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP).