From Ti Lian Ker
When officiating the PAS muktamar, party president Abdul Hadi Awang called for Gerakan to convince non-Muslim voters that Perikatan Nasional will preserve freedom of religion as per the Federal Constitution.
But Hadi has said too many things, too many times, for Gerakan to be able to convince non-Muslims to vote for PAS.
The platitudes about upholding religious freedom and justice will not whitewash the past, when Hadi had on numerous times demonised non-Muslims, calling them “kafir” (infidels) and also branding Umno as “kafir” for working with MCA and MIC.
Poor Gerakan! They are going to have a daunting task ahead.
Moderates in PAS can show their progressive side, for a start by stopping their comrades from describing non-Muslim Malaysians as “kafir”, often used in a condescending manner.
Very often, the tone or manner in which it is used is offensive and maybe meant to offend. In some states, “kafir” is regarded as a racial slur, applied pejoratively or offensively.
Recently, there was a campaign to stop using the slur of infidel on non-Muslims.
Other Muslim based parties, such as Umno, Bersatu or Amanah, do not lash out at non-Muslims or display their tendencies to “kafir” non-Muslims the way PAS does.
Personally, I will not refer to myself or want to be referred to as “kafir” as I am not an infidel. I have my beliefs and am a citizen under the Federal Constitution.
Our constitution is the supreme law of the land. Nowhere in our constitution is there any reference to “kafir” much less “kafir harbi” where the term refers to persons or groups that can be legitimately killed or to whom war can be waged due to their hostility and aggression against the Islamic state (subject to strict religious ethics).
We are also not “kafir dhimmi” which refers to non-Muslims who accept the supremacy of the Islamic state with specific taxes and protections.
Those are all in another place elsewhere, and their context is not applicable to us in Malaysia.
Recently, the Dewan Rakyat erupted into chaos after Pengkalan Chepa MP Ahmad Marzuk referred to DAP as “kafir”. I was bemused when our MPs started to argue whether DAP is “kafir or kafir dhimmi”.
It is good to see the MP for Jelutong, RSN Rayer, standing up to object to this “kafir” reference.
We should not in any way concede that we are “kafir” as ours is not an Islamic state and we are all Malaysian citizens. We should not be defined as “kafir” in the context of another state or of another time.
Hopefully, the Islamic development department (Jakim) or our progressive leaders can come forward to help Malaysia overcome this potentially damaging dichotomy or polarisation.
It is unfortunate to note that Malaysian politicians, particularly PAS have this tendency to call their political opponents “kafir”.
This “kafir-mengkafir” attitude, if allowed to be used or abused liberally, will further divide an already polarised nation. It may not only polarise Muslims and non-Muslims but also divide Muslims too.
This had happened in 1981 when Hadi branded Umno members as “kafir” in the speech referred to as “Amanat Hadi”. Umno was accused of upholding a secular constitution, and the fight against Umno was regarded as a “jihad”.
Malaysia used to be known for its political wisdom. Our constitution focuses on tolerance, mutual respect, and moderation, and we have successfully created a united harmonious nation for all Malaysians, much to the surprise of others.
We should not allow any form of extremism to rear its ugly head or to threaten our unity and harmony.
Maybe we should learn from our neighbouring country, Indonesia, when clerics agreed to use the word “muwathinun (citizen)” instead of “kafir”.
PAS should start by taking a cue from these progressive clerics, which would win them more respect and support and also make them and their partners, Gerakan and Bersatu in Perikatan Nasional, more amenable and acceptable to non-Muslims.
If Hadi, or PAS, does not change, it is a waste of time to ask their component, Gerakan, to convince non-Muslims to vote for PN.
Ti Lian Ker is a former deputy national unity minister and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.