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Monday, June 08, 2009

One step forward, Nineteen steps back

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Click logo to view Muktamar website report on this motion, image hosting by Photobucket The recent Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS this weekend concluded their 55th Muktamar, or general assembly. Enough has been said about the ulama (cleric) leadership managing to retain control of the party, and Walski has no intention of rehashing that aspect of the assembly (although, for a tongue-in-cheekish analysis on why Husam wasn’t successful, you could take a gander at Syed Akbar Ali’s post).

They decided to end their general assembly with a stupid resolution, which calls for the investigation of Sisters in Islam (SIS), and calling for the banning of the NGO, plus “rehabilitation” of its members.

The Nut Graph has their report here, while you can read also read what The Malaysian Insider, The Star, and Malaysiakini has to report on the same resolution.

Walski managed to obtain the wording of the resolution, via friends within the media community (in Bahasa Malaysia, translation by myAsylum):



- Menyedari bahawa aliran dan pandangan yang dibawa oleh Sisters in Islam (SIS) boleh mengelirukan masyarakat;

- Menginsafi pendekatan mereka mudah meresapi pemikiran dan mengancam aqidah ummat Islam terutamanya golongan muda dan berpendidikan secular;

Maka, Muktamar PAS Pusat yang bersidang pada hari ini 11 - 13 Jamadilakhir 1430 bersamaan 05-07 Jun 2009 di Stadium Melawati, Shah Alam mengusulkan dan membuat ketetapan:

(a) Mendesak Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan membuat penyelidikan ke atas SIS yang membawa aliran Islam Liberal dan seterusnya mengharamkan pertubuhan tersebut sekiranya terbukti bertentangan dengan syariat Islam serta membuat program pemulihan ke atas ahli-ahlinya.



- Realizing that the ideas and views promoted by Sisters in Islam (SIS) can confuse society;

- Being aware that their approach may easily seep through our thinking, and is a threat to the faith of Muslims, especially the young and those educated secularly;

The central PAS Assembly having had its sitting from 11 - 13 Jamadilakhir, 1430, equivalent to 5 - 7 June, 2009 at Stadium Melawati, Shah Alam, therefore makes the following motion and decision:

(a) Urge the National Fatwa Council to do research on SIS, which promotes Liberal Islam, and furthermore ban the organization if it is proven they are against the teachings of Islam, and to subject their members to a rehabilitation program.

Needless to say, Walski is outraged by this motion. It also shows how blatantly hypocritical PAS can be, on the one hand supporting greater space for freedom of expression, and on the other hand wanting to impose their thinking as the only valid thinking.
(who made the motion, and more, in the full post)

According to news reports, the motion was made by the Shah Alam PAS, known to be one of the most conservative within the Islamist party. However, Walski also received unconfirmed information that contrary to popular belief, Khalid Samad, Shah Alam PAS head was not the one behind the motion.

Rumor has it that the person initiating the motion is allegedly Dr. Hassan Ali, state assemblyman for N17 Gombak Setia, a known conservative, and Malay rights and theocracy advocate. He is also the person who was alleged by RPK to have been offered the post of Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Selangor in BN’s power grab plan of the state governments under the Pakatan Rakyat.

These are, of course, unconfirmed anecdotal reports that Walski has gathered.

It does make sense, however, as Khalid Samad is known to be one of the more progressive and liberal members of PAS, and it wouldn’t lend much to his own credibility for having mooted such a ludicrous motion.

In a related news report, The Nut Graph published Khalid Samad’s explanation for the motion.

Khalid, however, explained to The Nut Graph that the resolution was initially mooted by the Shah Alam Muslimat wing.

"I decided to accept the resolution without debate at the division level, but had asked them to revise it to tone down the punitive aspects and stress engagement with SIS," he said after the muktamar officially closed today.

Khalid said that the Muslimat had agreed to reword it, but they ended up submitting the resolution in its original wording to the main body's muktamar without his knowledge.

"But even in its existing wording, the banning of SIS is only a final resort — what is stressed is engagement with SIS to clarify their positions on Islam," he said.

He said that the Shah Alam Muslimat were worried about several views expressed by SIS, and would only seek to rehabilitate and ban them if the National Fatwa Council found their positions to be against Islam.

(source: The Nut Graph)

This time around, no motions were debated. As such, this specific motion, together with others, immediately became a muktamar resolution. But this also means that there would be some flexibility as to how the resolution would be addressed.

Walski wonders: on the one hand, PAS has actively called for more freedom of expression. And yet they come up with this kind of resolution. What does it all mean? Does it mean that they only support freedom to express THEMSELVES, while the expressions of other, perhaps contrary opinions, be suppressed?

And this very fact is what has been expressed by SIS.

SIS senior manager Maria Chin Abdullah said the PAS resolution underlined the party’s intolerance and prejudice against the non-governmental organisation, noting it was not even debated in its assembly that ended today.

“It contravenes the guarantee of rights to freedom of expression under the Malaysian Federal Constitution,” Maria said in a statement here.

“This demonstrates the arrogance and undemocratic practices of PAS and that it had forgotten that the key reason why they were voted in at the March 8 General Elections,” she said.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

Sisters In Islam has for a long time been a thorn in the side of Islamist conservatives in Malaysia. Primarily because it seeks to challenge the status quo mindset, in their promotion of issues pertaining to gender equality, and justice for women. Certain quarters within PAS were also very vocal in their objection against the recent Musawah global meeting in Kuala Lumpur (see here and here).

That said, the positive role that SIS has played since its inception is acknowledged even by other leaders within PAS, who do not agree with the resolution motioned by the Shah Alam PAS.

Central working committee member Dr Lo' Lo Mohamad Ghazali said, "I have a more open attitude: SIS is a registered NGO, so if you don't agree with them, you can just state your views."

She said that calling for SIS to be banned was not an inclusive step.

Lo' Lo Ghazali "Why not just discuss your views with them, engage them?" she said, adding that Dewan Muslimat was ready to engage with SIS on this matter.

Former central working committee member Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud also agreed that it was best to engage with SIS.

"I don't agree with banning them because I believe everybody needs to be able to speak their minds," she said.

"We may not agree all the time, and if we feel they are really wrong, it is up to us to engage them and present evidence for our case," she continued.

Siti Mariah said that while she did not agree with everything SIS did or said, she respected that SIS performed good work in protecting the legal rights of Muslim women.

"People think they are wrong, but I think their thoughts are rarely heard in Malaysia, and people tend to misunderstand them," she said.

(source: The Nut Graph)

What Walski would like to see is how the rest of Pakatan Rakyat responds to this motion and subsequent resolution. Apart, of course, from folks like the rabid Zulkifli Noordin of PKR, who would probably be in full support.

It will also be interesting to see what UMNO, which has a long history of trying to out-Islam PAS, will have to comment on the resolution. Between PAS and UMNO trying to outdo each other when it comes to religion, the ultimate loser is the entire nation, bit by bit.

PAS has gained a lot of ground since March 8th, trying to position itself more as a party that champions justice and equality. But any ground that has been gained is at risk of being lost because of this one division’s foolish resolution. And it doesn’t matter anymore who initially mooted it, because the damage may have already been done.

Perhaps irreparably. And rabid supporters lauding the resolution (such as this one), doesn’t do the party any favors either.

That, however, is left to be seen. For now, though, it would seem that for PAS, it’s one step forward, 19 steps back. And time for some damage control, presuming it’s not already too late.