Nurul Izzah in a bind

Nurul Izzah Anwar appears to have forgotten Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s opinion on apostasy at the forum.

‘BRASH’: PKR vice-president’s comment on religious freedom stirs controversy

Syed Umar Ariff, NST

NURUL Izzah Anwar has stepped  into a political minefield following her statement on the freedom of religion among Muslims, which is being described as “insensitive and brash”.

Perhaps the Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president was taking a leaf out of the book of her father, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who always found himself in trouble for making jolting statements, like supporting efforts to protect the security of Israel.

Nurul Izzah said: “How can anyone say the freedom of religion applies only to non-Muslims? It has to be applied equally.

“In the Quran, there is no specific term to Malays as to how it should be done,” she said to a question on whether Malays had freedom of religion.

Oh yes, Nurul Izzah did deny claims that she supported apostasy during a forum on an Islamic state. No right-minded Muslim would have done that.

She may have meant well raising the issue but her clarification deviated from what was understood by mufti and religious experts.

It was as if she had never said anything regarding religious freedom among Muslims on that fateful day, but was, rather, taking a quote from a surah (a chapter in the Quran). It was rather stupefying, indeed.

The 32-year-old could have been careful with her words. They were probably said to appease potential liberal-minded voters.

Still, Nurul Izzah should have known better about the political ramifications.

It could cause the loss of support among Malays or a backlash from an ally, if one does not thread carefully when dealing with an issue that is taboo among Muslims.

Nurul Izzah, one of the opposition’s strongest frontliners, had learned the hard way in her attempt to appear enlightened on the issue. She is now bearing the brunt of anger from mufti, imam and even skullcap-wearing neighbours. Moreover, she has yet to realise the high probability of Pas joining the fray.

And now she has gotten herself in a bind that will be brought up by rivals. To make it worse, in her excitement to speak on apostasy during the forum, she appeared to have forgotten Pas spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s opinion on that matter.

The hudud issue between Pas and DAP has yet to subside even after all these years. The conservative Islamic party may now face a threat to its goal of an Islamic country.

Many ulama in Pas are uneasy with the statement. This is not the first time Pas has to suffer hints that its alliance with PKR and DAP may lead to perdition.

Some Pas leaders, like vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, may choose to overlook it, saying that Nurul Izzah has made clear what she said. Others may have slapped their foreheads because of her slip of the tongue.

Above all, this can lead to another problem in Pas on whether it should condemn such statement or otherwise for the sake of painting a rosy picture of Pakatan Rakyat’s unity.

Will this become another thorn in Pakatan’s side? It may be far-fetched to say that this will affect Malay votes for the opposition, or that it will contribute to the breakdown of the opposition alliance.

But it is simply another example of what will happen when a prominent opposition leader chooses not to think of what she says, or has a wrong political guru, to begin with.