At a recent DAP party assembly, a guest, a PAS commissioner was invited to offer doa (prayers) to start off the event. No doubt the DAP party’s gesture of inclusiveness will be seized on by the non-Muslim component parties of BN, namely MCA, Gerakan and MIC to frighten non-Muslim voters of DAP’s so-called ‘infatuation’ with PAS. And most certainly MCA cybertroopers ensure that the DAP gesture balloons into something sinister, as part of their traditional scare tactics.
Yes, non-Muslims can be easily scared because they are already wary of Islamic laws (and its punishments). This attitude has been nurtured by a combination of harsh examples from other Islamic countries and our local and highly politicized happenings such as body snatching, caning of women, (most of all) rude and arrogant behaviour by some officers from the religious departments, and the constant UMNO aggressive policitization of Islam, etc.
In October this year (happier days then), at CPI, I too voiced my unease in my small article Ride the Islamic tiger, risk becoming cat food, where I said:
Since March 2008, some DAP leaders have been courting Malay voters in order to dispel the Barisan Nasional stigmatization of the DAP as a Chinese-based political party. Obviously this is necessary as more than 60% of Malaysian voters are Malays, and the DAP realizes that it can never aspire to be a significant political force without their support.
Ironically, like Lim Chin Siong, Lim Guan Eng is an incorruptible dedicated leader who too lives a personal austere Spartan lifestyle, and has shown his care for the poor and elders of Penang. These and his going to jail some years ago in seeking justice for an underage Malay girl are already redoubtable models to showcase the DAP as a worthy multi-racial party to the Malay voters.
Yet DAP has gone one step further, choosing to project itself as a pro-Islamic organization.
Guan Eng has often referred to the Caliphate of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz as his model for a scrupulously clean and thrifty government which cares for the ordinary people, while another DAP leader Nga Kor Ming is known for spouting quotations from the Quran.
Apart from the obvious need to expand its Malay-Muslim base, there have been other compelling reasons for DAP to expedite its wooing of the Malays via the Islamic avenue. The party has been concerned about the future of Anwar Ibrahim as well as the politics of PKR.
Anwar has served a vital role as the bridge and glue for the new coalition, Pakatan Rakyat which has PAS and DAP with antipodal ideologies. If Anwar is forcefully removed from the Malaysian political landscape, it is unlikely that PKR will be able to provide a substitute of equal stature and charisma. Thus DAP has decided on the worst case scenario where it will be required to work directly with PAS. What better time than to start now, and perhaps sneak a ride on the Islamic tiger.
I ended that article with a cautionary note for DAP: Let me advice those DAP leaders who want to ride the Islamic tiger that you are unlikely to succeed!
It's consequence would not only be the riders becoming meals for a big cat but in a reiteration of my earlier remark, in a religious state, when power hungry men can overturn the tables into 'God proposes, man disposes', the potential for gross injustice cannot be understated or overestimated.
Our only protection is the current constitution and the secular civil courts, warts and all.
Of course there is another angle to DAP’s demonstration of ‘inclusiveness’. As mentioned, the majority of Malaysians are Muslim Malays, thus DAP cannot be a major political force by stupidly ignoring them. As the saying goes, if the mountain won’t come to you, then you must go to the mountain.
Facts to consider:
(a) majority of Malaysians are Muslim-Malays [including the non-Malay Muslims among the Indians, Sarawakians and Sabahans]
(b) DAP is a political party
(c) votes are absolutely essential, not only for a political party’s survival but also for its development/progression into a major political power in Malaysia
(d) while the DAP is an ally of both PKR and PAS, it cannot hinge its future solely on the goodwill and cooperation of its partners. As was seen recently, PKR nearly went into disintegration mode.
Conclusion: The DAP must, while hoping for continuous and harmonious Pakatan strength and viability, prepare for a future where it may be forced to be on its own.
For its political survival, the DAP must therefore cultivate Malay goodwill and support, while at the same time dispelling both UMNO and MCA double-barrelled black propaganda, namely, UMNO's accusations that 'DAP is an anti Malay & anti Islam party' and MCA's scare tactics that 'DAP is a pro Malay & pro Islam party'.
Rubbing cosy shoulders with PAS may be a start to its inclusiveness campaign, and should not be seen as endorsing PAS’ aim to introduce hudud laws into Malaysia’s legal system. The DAP has already and firmly stated its opposition to substituting the civil laws of this country for a religious set of laws.
But it's important that DAP leaders should also exercise sensitivity when handling issues where Malay beliefs, customs, cultural preferences, feelings and indeed fears are prevalent.
We know that Malays have very strong feelings for their rulers, religion (Islam) and traditional customs (adat), so DAP members (not just leaders) should show respect for these.
Some examples of respect would be:
(a) wearing a songkok at an official event where a ruler is present – this would be a mark of respect to both the ruler and Malay customs; similarly, female DAP members should be advised to adopt Malay custom of wearing a Malay selendang (but not an Arab headdress) when in the presence of a ruler or visiting religious venues (no difference from wearing a shawl when entering a Catholic church)
(b) while I am personally against titles, principally because the BN has cheapened the royal award system by its nonsense of recommending every towkay and who-else for a datukship, nonetheless, accepting an award from a ruler indicates respect to the sovereign ruler, more so when the award has been conferred personally by HRH.
DAP’s inclusiveness campaign should be focussed on Malays rather than Islam, though of course it’s not possible to separate the two especially in today’s climate where UMNO has heightened the politicization of Islam to such an evil extent that Juanda Jaya, the Perlis mufti had to defend Nik Aziz over the pluralism controversy. The propaganda was so un-Islamic that Mufti Juanda was driven to decry the UMNO attackers as extremists.
Nonetheless the accent of DAP’s campaign should be on Malay customs, traditions and sensitivities.
At the end of the day, may I remind DAP members that as Malaysians we live in a country where the majority of the population are Malays. Speaking Bahasa is a given. But it’s only right that we show some respect for them and their feelings, and where it does not militate against out core values, adopt some or many of their customs and lifestyles. For example, kaytee loves to wear a sarong because it’s the world’s cheapest and most portable comfy air-conditioning wakakaka. And don't start me off on nasi lemak and the kuehs, or yummiest of all, those Penang sweeties in their sarong kebaya. ;-)