Ride the Islamic tiger, risk becoming cat food

Written by KTemoc, CPI  

A modern Asian myth has it that Lee Kuan Yew is the only man to ever ride a communist tiger without being eaten by the ‘beast’.

In the mid-50s he teamed up with the incorruptible, dedicated and charismatic Lim Chin Siong (left), a left wing trade unionist, to form the People’s Action Party (PAP). But Chin Siong was wrongly accused of being a communist, where some suspect he was set up by then anti-communist Lim Yew Hock, British Singapore’s Chief Minister, and the British authorities.

Even Kuan Yew acknowledged Chin Siong was a selfless man with a Spartan lifestyle, and a mesmerizing orator who was totally dedicated to his cause, and in fact the man who set the gold standard for Singapore’s renowned integrity in public governance. But it was said too that Kuan Yew so feared Chin Siong’s immense popularity with Singaporeans that he got rid of him when the latter formed the Barisan Socialis, detaining him under the ISA as a ‘communist’.

Though declassified British documents prove that Chin Siong was never a communist, Singaporeans continue to believe that he was one, as a result of years of the authorities’ black propaganda against him. Thus the myth of Lee Kuan Yew surviving the ride on the communist tiger remains.

As the Italian say, Se non è vero, è ben trovato meaning “Even if it’s not true, it’s a good story.”

In Malaysia today, we fear another such attempt in the making — that of Lim Guan Eng riding the Islamic tiger. We do know not yet whether he will survive though my guess is, alas, he won’t, for the reason majority-Muslim Malaysia today isn’t the same as majority-Chinese Singapore in the 1950s.

Wooing the Malay electorate

Since March 2008, some DAP leaders have been courting Malay voters in order to dispel the Barisan Nasional stigmatization of the DAP as a Chinese-based political party. Obviously this is necessary as more than 60% of Malaysian voters are Malays, and the DAP realizes that it can never aspire to be a significant political force without their support.

Ironically, like Lim Chin Siong, Lim Guan Eng is an incorruptible dedicated leader who too lives a personal austere Spartan lifestyle, and has shown his care for the poor and elders of Penang. These and his going to jail some years ago in seeking justice for an underage Malay girl are already redoubtable models to showcase the DAP as a worthy multi-racial party to the Malay voters.

Yet DAP has gone one step further, choosing to project itself as a pro-Islamic organization.

Guan Eng has often referred to the Caliphate of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz as his model for a scrupulously clean and thrifty government which cares for the ordinary people, while another DAP leader Nga Kor Ming is known for spouting quotations from the Quran.

Apart from the obvious need to expand its Malay-Muslim base, there have been other compelling reasons for DAP to expedite its wooing of the Malays via the Islamic avenue. The party has been concerned about the future of Anwar Ibrahim as well as the politics of PKR.

Anwar has served a vital role as the bridge and glue for the new coalition, Pakatan Rakyat which has PAS and DAP with antipodal ideologies. If Anwar is forcefully removed from the Malaysian political landscape, it is unlikely that PKR will be able to provide a substitute of equal stature and charisma. Thus DAP has decided on the worst case scenario where it will be required to work directly with PAS. What better time than to start now, and perhaps sneak a ride on the Islamic tiger.

But PAS, unlike the Singapore trade unionists, is no ordinary tiger. It is endowed with divine Teflon stripes. In a religious state, when power hungry men can overturn the tables into ‘God proposes, man disposes’, the potential for gross injustice cannot be understated or overestimated.

Take for example what PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang said in a press conference on Nov 12, 2003, after the launching of the blueprint on the introduction of Islamic laws in Malaysia. When asked what would happen to the existing [BN] policies which give focus to bumiputeras such as quotas under PAS’s claimed meritocracy in an Islamic state, Hadi answered:

“The reality today is that the majority of the poor are bumiputeras. Hence, for the initial period, focus will be on the bumiputera. There may be a situation in the future that the bumiputeras will overcome their problems, and the Indians become the majority of the poor. Then, it will be the responsibility of the country to look after the Indian community. It will depend on the situation. […] We are not disposing or dispensing with the term bumiputera.”

Not unlike Umno, PAS’s Islam would be an Islam with a strong Malay flavour. Under the Islamist party, even the already proven-to-be-marginalized Indians have to wait until the Malays have been ‘rescued’.