PAS on the path to power?

May 19, 2012 by Dr. Farish A. Noor

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Q. And this, you assure us, will only be done via a democratic process that PAS is now categorically committed to?

Dr. Dzul: ‘Yes, yes. I categorically classify myself as an Islamist democrat, as do many of the leaders of PAS in the present line-up. You must remember that many of us (PAS leaders) have been exposed to these ideas and the works of (Rachid) Ghannouchi, (Yusuf) Qaradawi, (Tareq) Ramadan, et al. since the 1970s. I myself studied with and under (Rachid) Ghannouchi during my own days as a scholar in the United Kingdom. And the evolution of what we call democratic Islamism goes back to that era of new progressive and pragmatic thinking, where we deconstructed and superseded the old Islamic state model.

We (in PAS) are committed to full democracy, not some half-and-half democratic compromise. This includes, as Ghannouchi insists, the possibility of us being elected to power and also being voted out of power if we do not perform and govern well. It has to be like that, and we cannot use democracy as a tool just to get to power, and then discard democracy when we have attained power. This is the fear that many people have about political Islam, and I understand where that fear is coming from. But again, I refer you to our record of governing the state of Kelantan, which we won, then lost, then won again. We have always played by the rules of the democratic game and remained within the limits of constitutionalism.’


Q. But unfortunately there are also many counter-examples of that not having been the case, and Islamists who on the one hand use the democratic process and then also use religious authority to seal their power. We have seen this in Pakistan, Sudan and other countries. How do you respond to that?

Dr. Dzul: ‘Like I said, the fear is understandable, but this is Malaysia’s PAS we are talking about; and our record shows we have not done that. We will not and should not use the word of God to impose our will on the public; and again the Malaysian public is a mixed, plural public too. Yes, we are Islamists, and we do not apologise for that. But we can only realise our Islamic vision in Malaysia by going through a democratic process that abides also by the rule of law. What I am talking about here is the rule of law, of due process, and of separation of powers – that is the framework of any working democracy.

The separation of powers is particularly important for me, for we need to put our trust in the people, and the institutions of the state whose integrity we need to restore. You see, I am also worried about the abuse of power and that can also happen in a religious-political system; so we need to have separation of powers to keep political power in check.’