Another Lesson in PAS History: The Malaysian Public Doesnt Like Extremists
Farish A. Noor
The repercussions of the somewhat clumsy attempt by some sections of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS to call for the investigation, and possibly banning, of the Muslim women’s rights group Sisters in Islam are still being felt today.
Many questions have arisen in the wake of the proposal that was passed without debate at the recent General Assembly of PAS: How and why was the proposal passed as one of the ‘non-debated proposals’ in the first place? Why was it not vetted properly and why was it tabled at all? What does this say about the internal cohesion of PAS and its internal discipline? Does this proposal reflect just a faction of opinion among PAS members, or is it actually representative of the party as a whole? And what does this mean with regards to PAS’s avowed claims to be a modern party that supports the democratisation process and dialogue with others?
It is hard, to say the least, to believe that a party can be supportive of democracy if it starts by calling for the banning of NGOs even before it comes to power…
For now however we are left to watch the internal and external drama of PAS unfold as the party seeks to re-consolidate itself after what was clearly a hectic assembly for all. The lingering question of where PAS really stands, and where it goes from here though will have to be addressed sooner than later.
To help answer this question, we would like to propose a quick re-visit to the history of PAS from the 1980s to the present to illustrate a simple yet important point: Namely, that the Malaysian public has never had much appetite for violent, extreme and exclusive political discourse and behaviour, be it from PAS or UMNO.