Will PAS be able to transform itself?

The Islamic party can rule Malaysia if certain crucial issues are addressed urgently.

What PAS has not done successfully is to articulate and implement new economic measures to help the Muslim community. They must have a group of economists and technocrats to explain how they can govern better than Barisan Nasional; how they can uplift the lot of Muslims in Malaysia.

Zaid Ibrahim, Free Malaysia Today

The Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun) rally was held recently, ostensibly to protect the Muslim faithful from scavenging Christian evangelists. Himpun supporters believe that as many as 250,000 Muslims have deserted their faith as a result, and those who gathered at the Shah Alam Stadium for the rally were there to say they want the government to stop this Muslim exodus.

Of course, the gathering was not just organised to save Islam, but also to enable a certain political party to shore up its faltering support. In politics, when everything else fails, you ride the religious bandwagon. Still the concern of some Muslims to attempts by Christian groups to induce vulnerable members of the faith to convert must be addressed. The gathering may be small, but the message of concern on the issue of conversion is real.

Unfortunately Muslim leaders from both parties seem to think that the remedy to the problem is to punish apostasy. What they should propose is how to make Muslims have stronger faith and belief in their own religion. Don’t blame others for our own weakness. Putting in place severe punishment for those who want to walk away from the religion is also futile. You cannot imprison belief and faith; nor deter people from believing just because of the severity of punishment. Look at what the Romans did to the early Christians – they imposed brutal and severe punishment but to no avail.

The good thing that emerges from the rally is PAS refusal to participate. By refusing to participate in the rally, PAS has shown its maturity, one that’s suitable for a modern country in the 21st century. This they have done reasonably well. Non-Muslims today trust PAS more than Umno in terms of bringing about racial unity. They have also done better on the religious tolerance score card, as they seem to allow other religions more space to practise their faith.