Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays Part 6. What is your view on PAS and its leadership? Do you think that their policies and struggles would usher or obstruct Malay/Muslim development in our country?
[The original in Malay appeared in www. Surais.wordpress.com on Feb 20, 2013.]
MBM: The leaders and policies of PAS do not impress me. That however, is irrelevant. More pertinent is that those leaders and their policies will cause Malays and Muslims to regress. Whether we would enter Paradise under PAS, only God knows, and He is not telling me or anyone else.
PAS has two fundamental flaws. First, it is confused on whether to be a political party, meaning one that aspires to one day hold power and lead the country, or a religious entity. The two are not necessarily incompatible but PAS has yet to choose which one has the greater priority. The price for this blurring of objective is that the organization does not excel in either.
Second, PAS is not democratic. The highest and ultimate authority lies not with its members, as it should be, rather an unelected Council of Ulamas. Worse, that council is restricted only to ulamas. Where is it written that only ulamas have the ability, wisdom or privilege to lead?
In a democracy, the ultimate power must lie with voters or members. Were PAS to govern, would its ministers be answerable to Parliament or the Council of Ulamas? Which body has the higher and ultimate authority? According to our constitution, it is Parliament; to PAS, the Council of Ulamas.
This is no small matter. Consider the current crisis in Iran where its unelected Majlis Syura is in conflict with the elected Parliament. I have no problem with the Ulama Council being merely advisory. The Ulama Council must respect and defer to Parliament. There is no place for anointed leadership in a democracy. Sovereignty lies with citizens.
On another level, PAS is consumed with labels rather than content. Its leaders are obsessed with hudud and the Islamic State but fail to declare what they mean by those terms. Which Islam state do they hold up as a model? Iran and Saudi Arabia?
Likewise with hudud; as non-Muslims are spared, criminals would be punished based not on the crimes they commit rather their faith. A Muslim committing adultery would be sentenced to death by stoning; a non-Muslim would suffer only the fury of their spouse. A Muslim caught stealing would have his hand chopped off; a non-Muslim would suffer merely a fine or jail sentence. Is that just? If it is not just, it cannot be Islamic. PAS has yet to address let alone reconcile this conflict.
The party’s greatest weakness is that its leadership core singularly lacks management talent. The skills needed for running a modern state are very different from that of being an ulama. The training, academic qualifications and experience of our ulamas are very narrow. They have never been exposed to the behavioral sciences, while their understanding of modern science and technology is abysmal. Their mindset is equally circumscribed.
As for their political skills, PAS leaders have not shown the ability and aptitude for cooperating with like-minded players, specifically their fellow partners in Pakatan even on already agreed-upon goals. They behave little kids; play ball my way or I’ll take it away. They view compromise as a sign of weakness. They forget that politics, as Bismarck wisely observed, is essentially the art of the possible.
Kelantan reflects the management talent or lack thereof with PAS. After leading it for decades, cholera, which has been wiped out elsewhere, is still endemic. Low level of public health is directly the consequence of managerial ineptitude. The people of Kelantan, overwhelmingly Malays, remain the poorest in the nation. Again that reflects the limitations of a PAS administration.
I have tremendous respect for Tok Nik Aziz as an ulama but voters elected him to be chief minister, not chief ulama. He should be humble enough to acknowledge his significant limitations as an administrator. That is his major weakness and fault. Had he been aware, or humble enough to be made aware of, he would have sought competent advisors.
Consider Reagan, revered as one of America’s greatest presidents. He readily acknowledged his intellectual and managerial limitations but he was very confident of where he wanted to take his nation. So he recruited the most talented and accomplished individuals to his cabinet so they could help him achieve his goals.
There are many such Malaysians, Kelantanese specifically. Why couldn’t Tok Aziz co-opt a few of them? Perhaps they could not recite the Koran and do not wear big turbans and flowing robes but if they are competent executives, that should be good enough. Frankly I could not care less even if they were not Malays or Muslims. You want someone to make sure that the rubbish is picked up regularly and the welfare of citizens taken care of.
PAS is obsessed with the Islamic State. Many, and not just non-Muslims, disagree with that. Yet PAS remains stubborn. Wouldn’t it be more meaningful and productive if PAS leaders were to understand and appreciate the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm and outright opposition? The greatest fear is that Malaysia would become another Iran or Saudi Arabia. Even Tok’ Aziz’s wife would oppose that. Imagine, women not allowed to drive!
How do your allay their fears and make them see your viewpoint? One thing is certain. If you label them as apostates or kafirs, that would surely alienate them.
PAS should focus on content and not be consumed with labels. Work with your Pakatan partners to get rid of corruption, abuse of power, and those laws that denigrate the human condition. Those are all wrong from the Islamic perspective. Do that and we that much closer to an Islamic state. To me, an Islamic state is one where there is peace, justice, prosperity, free of corruption, and abuse of power. Never mind the label.
Clearly UMNO today has strayed far from our Islamic ideals. Corruption, cronyism, and abuse of power are the antithesis of things Islamic. They cannot be mollified with the building of ornate mosques or having gala Maulad Nabi parades.
The upcoming general election will be a choice between a party that has a wee bit of competence in statecraft but is riddled with greed, corruption and abuse of power among its leaders, UMNO, versus another that is sorely lacking in managerial capability but whose leaders are pious, honest, and not obsessed with materialism, PAS. Which would one choose?
Of course we all would like the choice of competent, honest and efficient leaders, but Allah has not given us that.
Elections are like multiple choice tests, you select the best answer from the list given. Given the choice we have, I would unhesitatingly pick PAS over UMNO. We can easily train someone to be better executives or help them by supplying those talents. It would be considerably more difficult if not impossible to change someone’s inner core of greed, corruptness, and repeated breaches of faith. Leaders with those ugly traits would continue to get worse, if given the power and opportunity.
This upcoming election is an opportunity for Malaysians to deny the corrupt, the cheaters, and the greedy that power and opportunity.
Cont’d: Suaris Interview: The Future of Malays #7: Touching on the economy, while to date Malays have made some progress nonetheless the new generation considers that as insignificant. They demand a bigger share of the cake, at least 30 percent. How can we achieve this target?