Before I begin this post, let me clarify that I am not voting in a constituency in which PAS is contesting a seat, and hence the blog post is purely hypothetical. However, should I ever find myself needing to choose to vote between PAS and Barisan Nasional, I am confident that my convictions as set out below will hold.
I am a born-again Christian, and believe in a risen Christ as my personal Saviour. I believe that He died for my sins on the cross, and by His death He has paid the punishment for my sin. I am now acceptable in Heaven in God's eyes because of His sacrifice, and, like Christ who conquered death on the third day, so will I be free from death on the last day.
Why would a Christian who believes in the above ever cast a vote in favour of PAS, which is a party bent on implementing Islamic law in Malaysia? As BN supporters are always ready to say - PAS will implement Hudud law in our country, non-Muslims will slowly lose their rights and identity, be eventually pressured to convert, and Malaysia will become an Islamic country in the same vein as the Middle-East countries. We need to protect our rights by voting against PAS ever coming to power in our country. A friend of mine once asked that if had to choose between PAS and MCA, who would I vote for? She was shocked that I chose PAS, as if I should vote for MCA purely because we have the same skin colour, or that I should reject an Islamic party simply because I was a Christian. Or should I?
Let me first state some common facts which most of us should already know, but may have forgotten:-
It wasn't PAS which prohibited non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" in their respective faiths.
It wasn't PAS which seized Bahasa Indonesia Bibles and desecrated them by stamping "for Christians only".
It wasn't PAS which created laws that made proselytization and apostasy crimes prosecutable by law in a secular country.
While it was a PAS official (Hasan Ali) which raided an official function held by Damansara Utama Methodist Church, it is interesting to note that Hasan Ali received more support for his actions from outside PAS than within, so much that eventually he had to leave PAS.
It wasn't PAS which made comments about burning Bibles.
It wasn't PAS which presided over the Arabification of Kuala Lumpur, putting up road signs in Arabic, among other things.
.. and so on.
Now, I am not for a moment insinuating that PAS would be against all these things - in fact, I am under no illusion that PAS would allow prozelytization and apostasy, or be comfortable with Malay-speaking Christians using "Allah" in their Bibles. I merely want to highlight that the ruling government has no moral high ground when it comes to enforcing their choice of faith and religion, and are in no position to criticize PAS on religious matters. In any case, religion has no place in the politics of a secular country, but BN has hardly been the secular government they would like to portray themselves as. Scaremongering the non-Muslims into rejecting PAS on the basis of their religious preferences should not carry any weight at all. In fact, it is interesting to note that according to news reports, when the PAS state government proposed to implement Hudud law in the state of Terengganu, apart from one solitary non-Muslim ADUN (Ahli Dewan Undang Negeri) who abstained, all the other ADUNs voted for it - including those from BN.
Putting aside the religious aspect of things (since there's nothing to choose between the two parties), we now take a look at the approach of PAS. It is a given fact that PAS desire the implementation of Hudud - it is one of their dreams, and there's no denying that. However, there is nothing wrong in having a certain dream of the ideal country you want to live in. I have a dream - that one day Malaysia will be free from religious politics, and that my Malay brothers and sisters will be free to choose their own faith, be it Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Darwinism, Bahaii, Sikhism etc.. openly without fear of persecution from the authorities. That one day my children will be free to marry Malays without being forced to convert to Islam, and that one day our races will no longer be distinguishable because we've all married into one big family. It's not a dream likely to be realised within my lifetime, if ever, nor is it one which will be deemed acceptable by many Malaysians in UMNO and PAS, but in my own small, private way, I have my dream. In the same way, PAS have their dream - it might never be realised, but they hold on to it. Desiring the implementation of Hudud cannot therefore be held against them, because nobody can force others to want exactly the same thing as we do. If anything, that would be the greater crime - demanding that someone gives up their dream just to conform to what you want them to believe in.
How far can they push it? It is interesting to note that while PAS's spiritual advisors keep trying to market their dream, the political leadership of PAS has been very reasonable about the whole thing. We hear people like Mat Sabu and Khalid Samad speak about how they understand that things cannot be forced and it is obvious they have respect for the wants and needs of the other people who do not subscribe to their point of view. One thing which stands out for me is that neither of them has actually denied that they want Hudud law. It is remarkable because it is one issue which BN has been using against PAS ad infinitum, and PAS knows that by standing by their convictions they risk losing support from the non-Muslims (and even some Muslims who may not share their same convictions). It must have been tempting to just deny it, or to play down the issue, wait for the elections to pass and then show their true colours, but to their credit they have never done that. They will not betray their ideals, nor put on a false front, just to curry favour with voters. That, to me, is a sign of integrity, something to be greatly admired if we look beyond their ideals.
To amend the constitution, the pro-Hudud members of Parliament will require a 2/3rds majority, and this does not look possible. There have been countless articles on the web regarding the impracticality of the pro-Hudud MPs actually getting enough votes - there are simply not enough Malay seats, and that's not even counting the fact that not all Malays may vote for Hudud. Without going too deep into the analysis, it is safe to say that unless PAS manages to capture far more seats than it is currently contesting in, including seats in non-Malay areas, Hudud law will remain a dream for them. That PAS supporters are still trying to convince non-Muslims of the merits of Hudud means that they realise this. PAS might be able to push bills through various state governments in which they have a majority (like they did with Terengganu) but a competent Federal government would rise up and defend the country's Federal Constitution should this happen. As long as PAS is going to remain part of a coalition with PKR and DAP, they will never have the numbers to push this through - if PAS were someday to be in a position to seek a mandate to run the country by itself then it would be a different story, of course, but that is not the scenario we are faced with.
Since Hudud is, in my opinion, a non-issue, what are we left with? A person should never be defined by a single characteristic such as political allegiance, religion, race etc, and similarly, a PAS candidate should never be defined by his desire for Hudud law. PAS stands for many other things, and Hudud is not the solitary purpose of their existence. Not implementing Hudud does not stop them from pursuing other items on their agenda. The current PAS candidate for Titiwangsa (where I currently reside, although my voting address is still at my old address in Bukit Bintang), En Ahmad Zamri, is standing up for various issues such as reduction of inflated petrol prices, concerns regarding shortage of teachers, abolishment of toll concessions, stopping the outsourcing of speeding tickets under AES.. and so on. Do we have to look at him and see only his desire for Hudud? His predecessor, the late Dr Ghazali Lolo, served the people of Titiwangsa faithfully until her passing due to cancer, without once campaigning for Hudud. Do we judge her as undesirable as well simply because she carried the PAS flag?
As the election draws near, barely a week away, we need to take a step back and look at the full picture. Hudud will always be a front-page article in the mainstream media, while responses made to alleviate fears may not quite find their way to the government-controlled newspapers. We know that Hudud is a PAS agenda - but to be reasonable we cannot hold it against them. If they did eventually get round to trying to implement it and force it upon us then our response will definitely be different, but for now we need to respect their dreams in the same way they respect ours. We know that BN has no moral high ground when it comes to Islamic issues - in fact they've shown less respect to the sensitivities and needs of non-Muslims over the past years. When Hasan Ali raided DUMC, PAS leadership refused to stand by him because what he did was out of line and upset Christians, but BN was happy to support him. Even when faced with losing Hasan as a PAS member, and let us not forget - Pakatan Rakyat held Selangor by a very slim margin, they stood by the non-Muslims and Hasan was eventually dismissed, putting them in a weaker political position. They stood by their convictions, and it was a welcome moderate stand they took, so much that Hasan accused them of abandoning their Islamic principles. They lost a seat, but gained respect as a leadership which did not just think in terms of their own agenda. BN, on the other hand, refused to even speak out against Malay-rights group Perkasa when their leader Ibrahim Ali suggested that Bibles be burnt. The authorities refused to take action because "no Bibles were burnt", never mind how they interrogated a student for posting jokingly in Facebook about blowing up the Prime Minister's helicopter. Does the leadership of PAS really fall short of even the low standards set by the BN leadership?
Where does this leave me as a voter? If I look past the Hudud issue, I see men and women of integrity in PAS who care for the people under them. Disregarding the Hudud issue, these are good men and women who will serve their constituencies to the best of their ability. If we MUST look at Hudud even though it's not a realistic thing, then we also have to look at who we will vote for if we do not vote for PAS. UMNO? East Malaysian Christians are still waiting for the courts to remove the stay on execution on the judgement which gave them their right to use "Allah" in Malay Bibles - the courts had given them the green light but UMNO claimed they wanted to file an appeal, and the stay on execution pending an appeal has gone on for over 3 years now. Yes, PAS might have done the same, but is UMNO seriously any better than PAS when it comes to religious politics? At least one party comes clean about their position, does not lie about what they believe in, and will not make any decision unless the majority approves of it - what more do we want of our leaders?
The Crusades have already shown us the folly of mixing religion with politics, and countries like Japan have shown us that it's perfectly possible to have a safe country without needing to invoke religion. It's not the nature of the law gazetted, but the enforcement of the law. We have high crime-rates because we don't have enough policemen on the streets, not because our laws are inadequate. While PAS are welcome to continue trying to convince us, I am sure that if the time ever comes, when needed, we will make our stand known and reject Hudud law in our country.
Nevertheless, Hudud alone does not define PAS's existence, despite what the newspapers would have us believe. I will never support Hudud, but I pray for the success of PAS during GE13. If I had to choose between PAS and UMNO in my constituency, I would vote PAS without hesitation, and it will not conflict with my Christian beliefs in the slightest. May God bless the leaders of PAS, grant them the wisdom to work with the other leaders within Pakatan Rakyat, and together lead our country into a better future for our children. Amen.