Coming out of the ‘comfort zone’ – in conversation with Dzulkefly Ahmad

By Dr. Dzul

Harakahdaily recently spoke to PAS’s Kuala Selangor member of parliament Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad on a variety of issues including the perception that the party has ‘changed’. Dr Dzulkefly however says it is only a natural process being an ‘Islamist party’, and coming out of the party’s ‘comfort zone’ of the Malay belt has been a welcome challenge.

Q: We have seen great change in PAS in the last decade, particularly in the more open manner in which its top leaders have articulated the party’s stance against race-based socio-economic policies and Islamic perspectives on governing a multi-religious society. Is this a new approach by PAS?

Islam as a universal and complete way of life is a message espoused and advocated by PAS and its leadership from its inception. That’s almost five decades ago. So it is not new at all. But because PAS has always remained largely in the Malay belt states of the east coast – Kelantan, Terengganu and the northern states of Kedah and Perlis, it has never been challenged to engage and articulate a more broader, more multi-cultural-racial-religious constituencies and not known to be able to articulate such open and inclusive stance.

Hence PAS had remained within its ‘comfort zone’ of the ‘Malay Belt’ articulating the more familiar message of ‘Islamic faith’ (belief-system of ‘aqidah  and da’wah) largely directed at a Malay-Muslim constituency.

Although there existed efforts of engagement cutting across other ideological beliefs as early as the time of Dr Burhanuddin Hilmy right up to the effort of the Chinese Consultative Council (CCC) in the early 1990s, admittedly, it was during the day of Reformasi and especially after the 12th General Election, that PAS broke the barrier of engagement with a bigger constituency, cutting across the racial-religious-cultural divides.

It was [late PAS president] Ustaz Fadzil Nor who consciously positioned the party in the centre-stage of national politics and unambiguously expressed that PAS stood for ‘Justice for All’. While Islam remains a matter of faith to only the believers of the din [religion] of Islam, PAS advocates that within the realm of politics and governance. The Universal Justice of the systems of Islam is what PAS takes as our political advocacy.

In this sense our political message and advocacy cuts across all races, cultures and religions and we vehemently oppose racial-cultural-religious discrimination. We seek the support and mandate of all people (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to enable us to enjoin the universal goodness and justice of Islam for all people through the democratic and legislative process and the ballot box.

So this approach by PAS that we hear now is not something new? But why do we hear about it only now?