Tuesday, April 8, 2008

PAS shelves plans for syariah laws

Monday, 07 April 2008

THE president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) says his party is shelving plans for controversial legislation, such as a syariah criminal law, which has been bitterly opposed by non-Muslim Malaysians. Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang, in an interview with Sin Chew Daily published yesterday, also said an Islamic state is 'not poles apart' from the socialism being promoted by the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a partner in the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition.

Just weeks ago, his comments would have raised heckles within the PAS leadership and created much doubt in the DAP. But after the March 8 general election, which saw the Pakatan Rakyat coalition winning five of Malaysia's 13 states, leaders of the conservative Islamist party have shifted their position. The third member of Pakatan Rakyat, or People's Alliance, is Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

As Datuk Hadi told the Chinese-language newspaper: 'In reality, an Islamic state is not poles apart from DAP's socialism; our stand on some issues such as justice, anti-graft and poverty eradication are the same.' He said that although the creation of an Islamic state remained the direction for his party, controversial teachings were being shelved for now. He added that PAS would continue to implement 'feasible Islamic thoughts' except controversial sections such as the syariah criminal law.

The DAP has openly opposed the idea of an Islamic state, fearing for the rights of minorities, while multi-ethnic PKR has also voiced its reservations over the issue. Datuk Hadi's comments are significant because PAS had been pushing hard for the implementation of syariah (Islamic) laws, including criminal law, which, among other things, advocates amputation of hands for thieves and stoning for adulterers. Its syariah plans and hope to form an Islamic state had, in the 2004 general election, turned off non-Muslim voters, which make up 40 per cent of Malaysians.

It is understood that PAS has been greatly encouraged by the support it received from non-Muslims in last month's general election, after it issued its manifesto calling for setting up 'a caring society'. It had also campaigned on the 'PAS for all' platform.

In the interview, Datuk Hadi also admitted that PAS would not be able to realise a true Islamic state because it was incapable of forming a single-party government. Non-Muslims should therefore not worry about the issue, he said.

'Tell me, is there a difference between hungry Chinese and suffering Muslims? DAP wants fair administration, which is what PAS stresses. What is the biggest difference? It is our different faiths,' he said.

He added that differences should be set aside for now and discussed when there was a need to implement policies. He also said the coalition government would have to listen to the views of all members before discussing and drafting policies.

'Under such circumstances, PAS must respect the views of DAP. Even in PAS-ruled Kelantan, we will listen to the views of the other races. 'In Kelantan, PKR won only a seat and DAP does not have any representative, but PAS still respects their views,' he said. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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