When asked to comment on the Kedah fatwa ruling, the reaction of Selangor PAS Deputy State Chief and Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad is a great example of why the issue is so loaded with contradictions and pitfalls that will reverberate far beyond a single state.
The PAS-controlled Kedah State Assembly has ruled that fatwas can’t be challenged by the courts, triggering a wave on condemnation from constitutional experts and BN politicians – and mostly squirming-in-silence from Pakatan Rakyat.
When Khalid was forced to wade into the issue on Friday, he ended up making matters worse.
Questioned on the merits of the idea, he said that he supports the decision of his brothers in Kedah, adding, “I believe that the fatwa council is made up of religious experts who are more qualified to judge religious issues, compared to the syariah or civil court.”
So there you have it — that sounds like an emphatic endorsement.
But then he was asked that because he thinks the idea has such obvious merit, would he back the proposal in his state? It was then that his position shifted dramatically.
“The situation in Selangor is slightly different,” he said, without identifying what the “slight” difference was.
The issue is of course hypothetical, as PAS doesn’t control the state, but it is a good question anyway, testing an influential party figure on whether he too has ambitions to make fatwas “court-proof” in another state — or indeed nationally.
As The Choice has already reported, the Fatwa ruling is just the first course for PAS. The main course is hudud, which is why this is such a highly charged issue for the party, Pakakan Rakyat and the nation.
Let’s start with PAS. The party that soared in GE12 landed with a bump last year, being rolled by its coalition partners on hudud, being accused by its Islamist supporters of selling out its ideals for the sake of coalition harmony, being panned for its Negara Berkebajikan (benevolent state) proposal, the rebellion of Hasan Ali and then the rift in Kedah that exposed the weakness of its leadership.
In other words, 2012 PAS is a mess.
What better way of re-engaging with the base than by a bit of muscle flexing at state level? The ruling by Kedah PAS was without doubt aimed at the core group of supporters the polls show are migrating back to BN.
The problem for PAS outside Kedah is that it now has to declare whether this is part of the party’s ambitions nationally, or merely the work of a single state.
Khalid’s “it’s good for Kedah but not for Selangor” line is a dodge, and a poor one at that.
For Pakatan, the timing couldn’t be worse. The Opposition pact straddles an ideological divide between DAP and PAS and stays together only (as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim never tires of telling anyone who will listen) because of Anwar’s fading charisma and the fact that their drive for federal power forces them to pretend to be natural allies.
Ahead of GE13, Pakatan had been working to convince the rakyat that PAS is under control and the entire Opposition pact had a unified policy (without ever identifying that policy). Now that’s under threat, and non-Muslim voters will desert in droves if they think the true ambitions of PAS have now been exposed.
This episode in Kedah has merely exposed the truth. Hudud-loving PAS never went away, it just went quiet for a while.