Updated 6.42pm on 8 June 09
PETALING JAYA, 8 June 2009: Both Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the DAP have urged PAS to reconsider its call to ban non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sisters in Islam (SIS).
“As PAS is rallying for a ‘PAS for All’ image of the party, it should promote and practise democracy and not be seen as [imposing] its Islamic values on others,” said DAP Wanita chairperson Chong Eng in a statement today.
Chong Eng “The call for banning will be seen as bullying, as SIS is only a small NGO compared to PAS’s large membership and resources,” Chong Eng added.
Chong Eng was responding to the Islamic party’s resolution, in its 55th muktamar, to request that the National Fatwa Council investigate SIS, and declare it “haram” if the Muslim NGO was found to be anti-Islam.
The resolution was one of 11 passed without debate. It also said SIS members should undergo religious rehabilitation should the Muslim women’s rights organisation be found to go against Islam.
Chong Eng called on PAS to reverse this resolution, as it contravened the spirit of democracy and freedom of expression.
She suggested that the Islamic party call for an open debate with SIS, if indeed the party believed that SIS was promoting ideologies that were contrary to the faith.
Chong Eng also suggested that PAS solicit advice from its women leaders. “They may be more well-versed in his kind of issue,” Chong said.
However, the motion against SIS was initially mooted by the Shah Alam Muslimat wing before it was tabled by Shah Alam PAS at the muktamar. Shah Alam PAS chief Khalid Samad told The Nut Graph yesterday he had asked the muslimat to tone down the resolution and stress engagement with SIS, but that did not happen.
Khalid Samad PKR also disagreed with PAS on the matter.
“The correct way is to engage and debate with any organisation in a mature and civilised manner, rather than seeking for its ban and punishment for its members,” said PKR vice-president Mustaffa Kamil Ayub in a press statement today.
According to Mustaffa, differing and dissenting views should not only be allowed, but be protected, as these are the essence of a democratic and just society.
The DAP and PKR are in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, together with PAS.
Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said in a statement today that as a Malaysian political party with aspirations to represent all Malaysians, PAS should be open to diverse opinions and accept dissenting views.
He called on the Islamist party to move away from the “typical Malaysian political approach” to ban different viewpoints.
“We are heartened to note that, despite the resolution, two PAS delegates called for engagement with SIS,” Ragunath noted, citing Dr Lo’ Lo Mohamad Ghazali and Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud.
Wanita Gerakan secretary-general Jayanthi Devi Balaguru said it was regrettable that calls were made to ban SIS.
“If PAS is concerned that the views of Sisters in Islam are contrary to the teachings in Islam, then they should share their own views and tell people why. Banning organisations and groups just because they share a different perspective and beliefs is uncalled for,” Jayanthi said.
“Freedom of ideas and association are the cornerstones of a just and progressive society, something that Gerakan strongly believes in, and it is enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” said Jayanthi.
On another matter, Chong Eng said it was high time for PAS to move away from imposing Islamic dress codes. “They should get down to the real issues of gender equality, and problems faced by women, men and family,” said Chong.
Chong Eng was reacting to calls by some PAS delegates, during the muktamar debates, for women reporters to cover their heads. Wanita MCA chief Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun had earlier said such complaints was proof of the Islamist party’s “Talibanisation”.