Islamism Rising in Malaysia

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Long-time observers of American politics are no doubt used to American politicians who say one thing and yet mean something completely different. A favorite and well-known trick of politicians of both parties is to run as a doctrinaire conservative/liberal in the primaries and a moderate in the general elections. To most politicians, this sort of duplicity comes as naturally as breathing. Many Muslim politicians – in the few functioning Democracies in the Muslim world — engage in the exact same song and dance, stoking the fires of extremism back home while presenting a smiling face of moderation to the West, a practice which is expressly condoned by the Muslim doctrine of taqiyya. And yet, the few media outlets which cover the region to the West act as though the claims of these dissembling politicians simply must be true, when they would afford no such latitude to Democrats or (especially) Republicans.


The latest example of this phenomenon can be found in Malaysia, where the extreme Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) is attempting to unseat the moderate UMNO party and its governing coalition in Malaysia’s parliament. Prior to, say, last month, PAS was open about wanting to restore an extremist form of Sharia law on Malaysia, complete with subjugation of women and oppression of religious minorities. For decades Malaysians (of whom the vast majority are Muslims) have enjoyed peace and prosperous trade with United States and other Western nations, and have rejected PAS’s siren call of extremism, repeatedly giving UMNO a super-majority in Malaysia’s parliament. However, in 2008, for the first time, the UMNO-led coalition failed to secure over 2/3 of the seats in Malaysia’s parliament, and PAS smelled blood in the water.

In a clear example of taqiyya in action, PAS last week suddenly performed a public about-face and declared they were no longer in favor of establishing an Islamic state in Malaysia. With a wink of an eye, the hard-line clerics who ruled the party were replaced with moderate-looking businessmen in nice suits, and PAS announced that from henceforth they were solely interested in being good leftist Muslims. This rank and transparent deception was repeated credulously by many news organizations that cover the area. For instance, note the following from Jakarta Today (emphasis added):

Malaysia’s main Islamist opposition party turned in a moderate direction at its annual congress over the weekend, dropping demands to make the country into an Islamic state in exchange for a platform pushing for a “welfare state,” and electing a new more secular leadership.

Instead of Islamic clerics dominating the top positions in Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) like in the past, four of its five executive leaders are now men with secular educations.

Party president Hadi Awang, at the three-day meeting that ended Sunday, said PAS now prefers to talk about a state that looks after the poor and needy, rather than an Islamic state.


PAS, the country’s second-biggest political party after UMNO, has in the past frightened off non-Muslims, and even urban Muslims, with its plans to turn Malaysia into its version of an Islamic state. Gleaned from its rule in Kelantan and Terengganu states, this meant issuing strict Islamic edicts like those ordering separate cashier queues in supermarkets for men and women.

But in its effort to woo non-Muslim voters, PAS has been toning down its image as a fundamentalist party.

The image makeover was cemented by the vote over the weekend.

Of the five men in executive roles, now only Hadi Awang wears the Arabic turban and Arabic robes. His deputy and the three vice-presidents elected last Saturday don regular shirts and trousers, and speak about corruption and inclusiveness without the heavy language of religion that put off non-Muslims.

Oh, well, I guess if the radical Muslims say they aren’t radical anymore, we have to believe them, right (at least according to IntellAsia)? Certainly it has never happened that a radical American politician has suddenly professed to embrace moderation for the sake of getting elected – other than every Democrat who has run for president in the last 40 years, that is.

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  • Jaladhi

    Malaysia is trying to become Saudi Arabia of the East and they will do all those despicable things recommended in Quran and hadiths. Their behavior in last few years have proven it – such as stealing the corpses of Hindus and other non-Muslims and burying them as Muslims. Could anybody stoop so low as to do stealing of dead bodies? They have and are demolishing ancient Hindu temples at any flimsy and pretexts.

    And they clain they are a "moderate" Muslim nation. With "moderate Muslims" like that who needs radical Muslims!!!

  • Concerned Malaysian

    The author has obviously no clue what he is talking about. DAP as a quasi front for the PRC's interest in Malaysia? On what basis, because the party – let me emphasize, multiracial party here, has a good majority of Malaysian ethnic Chinese members who have lived in Malaysia for several generations and who have little family ties to China?? The tone the article isn't reflective of what is happening on the ground in Malaysia. PAS has on some occasions showed less Islamic zealousness than their counterparts in UMNO.

  • mrbean

    When the more radical Muslims seize control, the so-called moderate Muslims will fall in line out of fear and because they are Muslims. And once, they radicals get control you may will have to kill them all to get them out because they are theocratists who don't believe in democracy.