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Viewpoints of Prominent PKS Parliamentarians on the Future Development of PKS in Indonesia
May 19, 2012 by Dr. Farish A. Noor
Q: And the cadre system that you introduced – with its weekly and monthly meetings, classes and discussion groups, etc. – prevented you from slipping towards dogmatic religious politics?
ZM: Yes, because our cadre training has a lot to do with giving our members the background they need in issues of governance, management etc. but in a very modern sense. Today critics of PKS say that if we come to power the first thing we will do is impose Sharia law and Hudud punishments. There is nothing like that in our training! Hudud is never an issue for us, and it has never been an issue for us. Why? Because we want to show that an Islamist movement can come to power in a plural society through a democratic process that engages with a plural society in a civil manner.
That’s why so much of our training programmes have always been focused on pragmatic skills and knowledge such as business, management, etc. We need to learn how to manage a society through the state apparatus; though again I admit we are still learning and such a learning process can only be a slow one: Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we need to take one step forward and two steps back. It’s a learning process, but not a radicalisation process.
Q: There are other modern Islamist parties that also talk about skills acquisition, modernisation, etc. but at the same time have been prone to slipping back into their conservative rhetoric about Islamic law, Hudud punishments. Look at the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS for example: For the past few years its progressive leaders have tried to foreground the idea of an Islamic welfare state (Negara Kebajikan), but just recently (September 2011) yet another controversy erupted when out of nowhere the Hudud issue was raised and suddenly PAS stated that it will not abandon the struggle to impose Hudud punishments.
ZM: Yes, I know about that; and of course all parties have to maintain some cohesion and discipline among its members. Like I said, PKS is a community, and like all communities there are members who may think differently. What can we do? PKS cannot be authoritarian and demand that all members think alike can we? I accept that we have pockets of different opinions in our party, but isn’t that true of all parties, including secular ones?
Secondly, again I emphasise that what we are trying to do is to demonstrate that Muslims can alter the political system from within, but not by knocking the system too hard. Our approach is pragmatic, calculated. And the cadre system and our training programmes are there to teach our members to be pragmatic in this way: They learn to speak to the public, to convey their message to their constituencies, to promote things like transparency and anti-corruption. That’s what we do. Whats the point of having ceaseless debates about things like Hudud law? When has PKS ever called for that?
We remind our members: We need to convince the electorate that Islamist politics is not just about symbolism and rites and rituals. Its not the dress that counts, but the delivery. Now how on earth can we convince voters to support our programme if all we do is talking about chopping off hands or stoning people to death? Try to win an election on that basis- you cannot. Nobody can win votes by going to the public talking about things like Hudud punishments and the death penalty, nobody.