The long, twilight struggle between DAP and PAS over the future of hudud law in Malaysia is slowly coming to its inevitable conclusion: PAS is winning.
That is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the latest news. The Star reports that on Tuesday, the Kedah State Assembly (16 PAS, 2 PKR, and 1 DAP member) passed the Mufti and Fatwa Enactment, which bars people from challenging fatwa in any civil or sharia court.
That’s one for democracy, lah.
The reaction was strangely muted for two days; on Friday, the dam burst.
The Islamic Renaissance Front took to the pages of The Star and The Malaysian Insider to decry this turn of events. Editorials in opposition web outlets decrying this turn of events have burst forth everywhere as if somehow a state government run by PAS should not be expected to sacrifice democracy for their radical take on Islam, a view of the faith totally out of step with traditional Malaysian attitudes.
But the surest proof that DAP has suffered a crippling blow in Pakatan Rakyat? Malaysiakini has gone to war over the new law. DAP’s foremost mainstream proxy is clearly in high dudgeon, and is running article after article decrying this. One can only imagine the heat on DAP’s leadership’s phone lines.
This law is nothing less than a victory for the forces of those who believe democracy is unimportant, and is clearly the first step on the route to hudud law. It is noteworthy that Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, the Menteri Besar of the state, is using the same defence that PAS routinely uses for hudud: Non-Muslims should not worry, because this will not apply to them.
Oh, well, then. Quite all right. Muslims in Kedah will be deprived of rights they have enjoyed for decades, but non-Muslims will be fine. For now.
There are three problems for Pakatan.
First is the obviously terrible message this sends to the rakyat. Vote Pakatan and you too may receive hudud law is now more obviously true than ever, and is a bit of an election downer, which is why PAS wasted last summer trying to pretend it’s not a radical group trying to impose draconian laws on the people. That effort is now completely up in smoke.
Second, DAP can no longer tell its constituents that it will keep PAS in line. For years, the DAP party line was that PAS could be trusted, PAS has learned its lesson, and the close relationships between DAP and PAS leaders would prevent this sort of thing. Worse, PKR loses its claim to be a moderating bridge between DAP and PAS.
In other words, voters can now see that there is no control inside of the Opposition pact. Perhaps a joint manifesto would have helped? (Probably not.)
Third, the contrast to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Government is stronger than ever. Where he has outlined — and pushed through over the objections of the hardliners in his party — a series of reforms to make Malaysia freer and more advanced, Pakatan is following its hardliners into an older world, less free, and less advanced.
Come GE13, Malaysians will have a starker choice than ever: Najib’s reforming Barisan Nasional, or a Pakatan Rakyat Government apparently willing to let PAS do as they please. The choice becomes starker by the day.