During this Hajj season, we have witnessed a string of tragedies that have affected the annual Islamic event in the holy city of Mecca. First, there was the crane that collapsed on September 11, which was followed by the fire in hotel Sakaf Al-Barakah on September 17, and the latest, the stampede in Mina on September 24. The death toll has nearly reached a thousand pilgrims, with many others injured and believed to have suffered from shortness of breath.
Having said this, when disasters occur, as God's servants, we must endure these tests as everything that has been bestowed upon us, whether good or bad, comes from God, the Almighty. In His tests, there also lies a wisdom and a lesson for us all, because all that happens in His will, is never in vain. Among them, the enjoinment to strengthen the ties of Muslims among one another, to help ease the burden and hardships borne by other Muslims. Through the Hajj pilgrimage, the bond of brotherhood and unity, regardless of rank, wealth, skin colour, race or political ideology can also be instilled.
The same can be said with the unity of Muslims in Malaysia. Perhaps, the time has come for Muslims to set aside their differences and political ideologies, instead focus on uniting for Islam. Politicians should be more open-minded, mature and professional and put the interests of the religion as a fundamental part of their struggle. Islam in its teachings have forbidden quarrels amongst one another, and there have been enough disputes and recriminations amongst Muslims here. Hence, PAS and UMNO must sit together to not only discuss the importance of the unification of Muslims in Malaysia, but in general, the development of Malaysia's national unity and development.
According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia 2010 census, the population of Muslims in Kelantan, comes in third, at 95.2%, after Putrajaya (97.4%) and Terengganu (96.9%). Meanwhile, Muslims account for only 61.3% of the total population, according to the overall statistics for the whole of Malaysia. The voices of Muslims are already slowly fading, so, what more when they are not united?
The political split involving Muslims in UMNO, PAS, PKR and now coupled with the Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), has caused more confusion for many non-Muslims, as to which is the correct Islam? With one party claiming to be more Islamic than the other, one deeming themselves as not fanatic and practising moderation, and the other claiming to be more liberal and progressive. But who is really right? How can Muslims preach their faith to others if fellow Muslims themselves are still not united and incite recriminations towards one another?
PAS entrenches itself as an Islamic party striving to ensure the criminal law according to Syariah encompasses of hudud, qisas and takzir, to be implemented, as part of Islamic teachings. Since the formation of the state government in 1990, efforts in that direction have already begun and the Syariah Criminal Code II was presented and approved at the Kelantan State Assembly in 1993. However, it could not be implemented due to conflict with the Federal Constitution, which requires an amendment with a 2/3 majority support from members of the Parliament.
The latest PAS assembly meeting in June 2015 saw a landslide victory of pro-clerical faction; which was seen as a good sign for PAS to implement the hudud laws. Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who successfully defended the PAS presidency in his keynote speech at the opening of the meeting, stressed that the Kelantan government must implement hudud laws after being urged by the people who choose to return to the Islamic path. He is currently trying to present a Private Member’s Bill in the Dewan Rakyat to amend Act 355 of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Amendment 1984) to enable the implementation of hudud laws in Kelantan.
However, PAS’ Pakatan Rakyat coalition partner, refused to support the law if it is tabled in Parliament. DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, informed the media that all 37 DAP MPs reject the hudud laws by PAS as it is deemed unconstitutional. DAP stands firm in objecting the implementation of hudud laws, urging PAS to abort the plan if they wish to remain in the opposition. DAP had openly insulted the party's leadership and outwardly objected the hudud laws.
In the past, UMNO and BN who were seen as barriers, have now become staunch supporters of the implementation of hudud laws in Kelantan, making it the common ground between PAS and UMNO. The Kelantan State Assembly had passed the amendments of the Syariah Criminal Code II 1993 (Amendment 2015) which is 47 pages thick, in March, and the Bill had a unanimous vote from its lawmakers, including 12 BN assemblymen from UMNO. Even the Sultan or Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad V, had given his assent to the implementation of hudud laws in Kelantan. The ruler had conveyed his support during his speech at the opening ceremony in the third quarter of the 13th Kelantan State Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition which was formed in 2008, has formally declared disbanded with the inability of the rest of the alliance to work with PAS. Now, its successor, a new coalition known as Pakatan Harapan replaces Pakatan Rakyat. This combination of PKR, DAP and Amanah was recently created after a roundtable meeting in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Since the formation of Amanah, PAS seems to be weakening at a national stage and its position is challenged, particularly in the party’s strongholds in Kelantan. Previously, there have also been anecdotes of the party’s split with the formation of Persatuan Ummah Sejahtera Malaysia (PasMa). This perhaps seems like the perfect opportunity for PAS to unite with UMNO, to strengthen Islam, and there is nothing strange about this combination as we have seen it happening before when Tun Abdul Razak and Datuk Asri Muda had previously formed a government united under the Barisan Nasional in the 1970s.
Muslims have long been fragmented, especially in Kelantan, with issues like praying with two imams, issues of accusations of unbelievers among Muslims, among them, which in no way bring any good to the Muslims. In fact, these issues cause confusion to the non-Muslims, making it harder for missionaries to spread the faith. When in actual fact, PAS and UMNO have more similarities than differences, but unfortunately, the differences is what has been focused on and often exaggerated over the years.
From time to time, efforts to strengthen all Muslims must be undertaken, and each Muslim has the responsibility to ensure that unity is forged amongst one another, because divides only does more damage to the whole community. If Muslims cannot unite at a national level, it should at least be disclosed at a state level first.
Just take a look at the easiest example, the formation of a coalition government in Kelantan which will benefit its predominantly Muslim community. Remunerations from the federal government can be continued and channelled to the state government. Problems concerning the royalty of petroleum resources are still pending for a long time, and this too can be quickly resolved. The state development will progressively become more rapid.
In Kelantan, many Muslim entrepreneurs are being trapped behind the polemics among themselves, regardless their support for the federal, or state government. The same goes for the others living in Kelantan. Despite the majority of Muslims, it has been a while now that the people have been separated by different political ideologies. Every layer of the Muslim community, be it villagers or giant entrepreneurs, have expressed hope to see unity being forged between PAS and UMNO, and a longing for it to become a reality.
Back to matters at hand, with the recent string of tragedies that hit Mecca recently, history has proven that every time a disaster strikes, the spirits of Muslims to unite, is once again uplifted for the sake of the religion. Let us learn from these events that have unfolded, put aside our ego and differences, and turn to the true calling of Islam. Islam teaches manners, to respect and deal with each other’s differences, and put more focus on similarities that bring unity, in heading towards a successful nation and state.
If we really want to abide by Islamic laws, Muslims must unite to ensure that they are in power and are the voice of majority. With a majority of over 60% of Muslims, like in Malaysia today, and with the democratic system we have now, God willing, we will be able to implement the Islamic laws accordingly. Even better, every political decision will benefit the Muslims, and most certainly, Islam is for all as well.
Chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Kelantan Branch