Ikmal Rozlan –
January 21, 2019
According to comments by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang at a recent seminar, any Muslim who wants religion to be an exclusively private affair is a “deviant”, someone who does not follow the tenets of Islam. He went as far as to claim that his party is divine and prophetic (which in itself could be considered sacrilegious, but hey, I’m no Islamic scholar).
We all remember RUU 355, the private member’s bill proposed by PAS which strove to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act – a hudud-esque amendment that sought to remove the restrictions regarding the nature and extent of the punishment that the state legislative assembly may assign to the Shariah Court.
The bill created one of the biggest divides in Malaysian politics, with PAS censuring any Malay politician who did not blindly support it. The matter left both sides of the chasm in a screaming match which has yet to conclude even today as the parliamentary debate on the bill seems perpetually delayed.
For decades, Hadi and PAS have been trying to implement Islamic rules in Malaysia’s legal system. Their stronghold in Kelantan has seen the implementation of strict shariah laws that punish insignificant and harmless conduct such as “wearing tight clothing” and not donning the tudung. The most recent affront on the people is the state-wide ban on karaoke and shisha. Dovetail that with the lack of cinemas in the state due to its strict gender segregation policies, and the Kelantanese people are left with very little freedom. Those coveting basic privileges venture across to neighbouring Thailand.
Suffice to say, the party’s main goal is guerrilla warfare on freedom of religion, a phrase and concept that upsets the party as a whole.
Because “freedom of religion” causes such ire to certain quarters, I will be using the phrase extensively henceforth. The basic concept of freedom of religion is that a person is able to choose which faith to follow based on what he or she genuinely believes. The very idea of forcing a person to follow the rules of a religion is nonsensical not only from a logical point of view, but also a religious one.
If people truly had faith in their religion, they would not require any man-made laws to mandate their behaviour and devotion. They would voluntarily follow every tenet to the letter.
While freedom of religion could cause some to stray from “the right path” once in a while, those who have genuine faith in the teachings of their religion will always repent by and by without any extrinsic influence.
On the other hand, if a person is devoid of faith, forcing him or her to perform ostensibly arbitrary rituals is pointless as God would surely recognise the insincerity. You could force a person to pray five times a day until he dies, but would he still end up in damnation if there was no belief in his prayers to begin with?
Religious freedom would allow followers with splinters of doubt to find God on their own paths. It would also allow those without belief to find happiness in some other form. Forcing everyone to follow a blanket set of rules will only put off those seeking faith, and maybe even cause those who have faith to lose it.
PAS’ forlorn concept of an Islamic state can bring nothing but pain and sorrow to society, in both the short and long term.
Ikmal Rozlan is a journalism student and an intern at the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT