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Looking beyond political bluster for the sake of stability

There is only so much PAS can do to push its agenda, even if it does form part of the government to come.

Michael Ting
2 minute read

A popular narrative making the rounds post-GE15 is that the country's slide into radical Islamism will gather pace following the significant inroads PAS made in the recent polls. The party won 49 seats last Saturday, making it the single largest party in the Dewan Rakyat. 

This is a major achievement. For decades, PAS was only a fringe player in national politics. Since the 1970s, it was never part of the federal government until 2020 when the eighth prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin co-opted the party's lawmakers into the Cabinet. 

Critics of PAS and Perikatan Nasional, which the party is part of, have played on fears that the Islamist party will push for its radical agenda, including purported theocratic aims.

But just how much does that bear out? Will a resurgent PAS step up its push for policies that are rooted in Islamic principles at the expense of non-Muslims and the diversity this nation is known for? Are we set to implement RUU355, the hudud bill?

To answer this, we need to look beyond the bluster and noise and focus on facts and reality. Since PAS joined the Cabinet in 2020 under the Muhyiddin administration, we did not see any overt Islamisation programmes or policies implemented in government, beyond those already ongoing.

No PAS leaders spoke of implementing RUU355, or proposed the closure of the casinos in Genting Highlands. In other words, it's pretty much business as usual.

Why is this so? At the end of the day, PAS and its allies in the ruling coalition know that there's a thin red line that the green Islamic wave should not cross in this pluralistic country dependent on foreign investments.

They know that this nation is founded on mutual respect for the different ethnicities. They know that any whiff of Malaysia going down the Taliban route can result in capital flight. But importantly, PAS and its allies know that pushing the envelope too far will not be good for this nation and will cost them votes.

It is one thing to play to the gallery to score political points. But it's another to follow through on some of the bluster. As voters, it is our duty to differentiate the noise from reality. 

Furthermore, I believe if PAS were to one day cross the thin red line, blocs like East Malaysia's Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah can act as a counterweight. Besides, I also believe there's fair number of MPs, whether from Bersatu or Umno, who do not subscribe to PAS' version of the theocratic state. 

In other words, there's only so much PAS can do to push for its agenda. As voters, we just have to concede that PAS' Islamic ambitions are a lot of talk at this moment for political expediency's sake. 

The larger question is whether we want a stable government with the inclusion of the largest party in the Dewan Rakyat, or a chaotic one that can cause much more real-life disruptions than the hullabaloo about PAS' Islamism.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.