Islamic State document is conservatism cloaked in modernity
- at the "Islamic State: UMNO's 929 Declaration Vs Pas' ISD" dialogue
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Never before in the history of this nation has there been so much silence on such an important issue.
On 12 November, 2003, Pas issued its Islamic State document. It reaffirms that its form of state is based on the Koran and the Sunnah, hence the Syari’ah (the penal code that includes Hudud, Qisas and Ta’zir). It defines vicegerency (khilafah) as signifying the task and responsibility of leaders in establishing Islam as ad-Deen (the way of life) and governing of the state. We read about god-righteousness (taqwa), consultation (shura), justice and equality (Al-‘Adaalah wal Musaawah), freedom (al-Hurriyah) and absolute sovereignty (As-Siyaadah wal-Haakimiyah). These are terms with which we are increasingly more familiar.
As in all major religions, we recognize in the document universal values such as righteousness, consultation, justice, equality, and freedom (seven aspects of freedom and rights). We must instill these universal values in the country.
The document quotes 32 injunctions from the Koran. It refers to Surah Al-Baqarah: 256 “There is no compulsion in religion” to say that non-Muslim members of the Islamic State possess and enjoy their rights as citizens of the state. This is preaching to the non-Muslims.
Like all political documents, it contains ideals and principles. In 1918, the Communist Party of the defunct Soviet Union denoted ideals and principles. In the chaos of that era, the party won. But the Soviet Union lasted just over 70 years.
An Islamic State is an Islamic State, is an Islamic State. It is based on the Koran and the Sunnah. There is no such thing as a moderate Islamic State. Neither is there an extremist Islamic State.
How do we ensure that leaders who mouth religious ideals and principles do not assume feigned superiority?
Having obtained the trust of their followers, some religious leaders including Islam abuse their positions. Their words become the gospel truth, the dharmaic truth or the koranic truth. No one can challenge their pronouncements. If their adherents happen to be in the majority, they think that their religion is the most superior or their civilization is above everyone.
There are many great civilizations in the world. Islamic civilization is great. But it is not the greatest.
Pas rules Kelantan and Terengganu. It allows freedom of worship in the two states. But, it justifies suicide bombings as the right thing to do in the struggle for freedom and justice as seen in places such as the Palestines. We don’t agree because killing of the innocents is wrong in any religion.
Just like people of other religions, Pas quotes history such as in Medina 1,500 years ago that dhimmi or non-Muslims enjoyed certain rights. Naturally, it tends to leave out history of atrocities. Similarly Christians or Hindus can mention examples of tolerance whereas some did commit pogroms including the latest massacres in Gujarat. For example, the massacring of the indigenous people in South America in the name of religion years ago boggle the mind.
The President of Pas Dato’ Seri Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang says in the preface to the document that its publication is sufficient evidence to squash allegations that Pas never intended and would not establish the Islamic State, as alleged to run counter to Pas’s political interest.
Thus, this is a political zero sum game—the battle for the Malay heartland. The fallout of this battle is far-reaching (on the Malaysian polity).
Pas is concentrating on winning in the Malay heartland, hoping to win Kedah, Perlis, Pahang and others. Then, if there is further demographic changes, the percentage of non-Mulsims may be reduced to 15 or 20%. Should this happen, non-Muslims may be forced to join the bandwagon of Pas’s Islamic State.
(Parliamentary democracy has its weaknesses such as the population may not fully understand the practice. It has to be modified to suit individual countries. Many countries are trying to live with it. Some do better than others. Some states experimented with totalitarianism with a view to communism. But, communism is a utopia disregarding reality of human weaknesses. So, these totalitarian regimes have failed.)
On the other hand, the world does not have any Islamic State. Pas documents the superficiality of an Islamic State, replete with modern jargons like parliamentary democracy, ICT, transparency and accountability. By the nature of things, the ideals and the principles form the superficiality. We don’t know what the contents or substances are.
For instance, its policy on women. Besides the principles such as a comprehensive policy on women development, what are the contents? What are the limits of the Shari’ah. How bad is gender segregation?
Only the ulamaks, the clerics and the scholars who are in power can interpret the holy Koran that is in classical Arabic. No matter how good Muslims and non-Muslims are, if they cannot interpret the Koran, they cannot become the true leaders.
(One of the consequences of the battle for the Malay heartland between Umno and Pas is the changing Malaysian polity.)
The document states that the implementation of Shari’ah, hudud being part of it, provides the much required peace and security as crimes would be reduced to its minimum.
“As to the thief, male or female, Cut off his or her hands: punish by way Of example, from Allah. For their crime: And Allah is Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom”. – Surah Al-Maaidah:38
The above stated injunction is mandatory and must be implemented.
No doubt there will be endless arguments for and against the implementation of some of these injunctions in the years to come (as there has been in the last 1,500 years).
The conclusion to the document is : “Progress With Islam” would be embodied in establishing the Islamic Order and State. Islam is the solution to all human problems, including issues arising from a plural society. The embodiment of constitutional Shura (consultation) would be enhanced in the Islamic Government. The Islamic State secures the progress, well-being and prosperity of society.
The Iran Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini has promulgated a much thicker and more comprehensive document (setting out ideas, ideals and principles of its Islamic State to secure the progress, well-being and prosperity of the country.) (There have been some changes for the better since the fall of the Shah). Persecutions such as on those who dare to voice dissent are evident. (What happens to the constitutional Shura in Iran? Are crimes in the country reduced to the minimum? Similarly, are crimes in Saudi Arabia that practices Surah Al Maaidah 38 reduced to the minimum? What are the reasons for suicide bombings in countries such as Saudi Arabia?)
* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice Chairman & MP for Kepong