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PARTAI ISLAM SE-MALAYSIA. The antecedents of Partai Islam Se-Malaysia, better known by its Malay-Arabic acronym PAS, come from three distinct Malay groups, linked to a certain degree by Islamic concerns and Malay nationalism. In 1950 the leading Malay nationalist party in the country, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), created a religious wing to satisfy the demands of its more religious Malay followers. Many of these were traditional Sunni Muslims whose Islamic observances and way of life included a number of pre-Islamic practices, some of Hindu origin, derived from Malay adat (Ar., `adat; custom).
When UMNO split in 1951, the religious wing decided to establish an independent Islamic political party. The meeting in November 1951 leading to the formation of PAS was heavily attended and influenced by former members of the Hizbul Muslimin, a reformist Islamic organization that had dissolved itself in 1948 to avoid being proscribed. It was decided at the meeting that PAS would be an Islamic welfare organization. It did not register as a political party, and its political goals were vague.
For the first few years, the party languished. However, it was gradually rejuvenated as alarm spread among Malays over UMNO’s concessions to non-Malays during independence negotiations. A third group joined forces when a prominent Malay nationalist, Dr. Burhannuddin Al-Helmy, who was elected president in 1956, brought into PAS numerous old supporters of the disbanded radical Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), despite the fact that the MNP had been a secular party committed to socialism.
Ideologically, the three strands comprising PAS-the MNP, Hizbul Muslimin, and UMNO defectors together with anti-UMNO forces-represented both radical socialist and conservative feudal Malay nationalism, and both reformist and traditional Islam. During the decade after 1956 the party gave priority to radical Malay nationalism and Pan-Indonesianism. In the 1970s, the party symbolized conservative Malay nationalism coupled with support for the goals of traditional Islam. Since 1982, PAS has given priority to reformist Islamic goals and has downplayed Malay nationalism.
In 1955 PAS registered as a political party and won the only opposition seat in the election that year. In the first post-independence elections in 1959, PAS won the states of Kelantan and Trengganu in the heavily Malay-populated northeast. The party’s slogan, “Bangsa, Ugama, Tanah Ayer” (“Race, Religion, Native Land”), had a powerful emotional attraction. Its nationalist appeal that “Malaya belongs to the Malays” was clear and unambiguous, and Islam was subordinated to it. The party advocated the formation of an Islamic state, but without defining the relationship between Islam and the structure of the state. Specifics were limited to areas where the reformists and traditionalists could agree, such as advocating the prohibition of alcohol and gambling.
Kelantan-born Datuk Asri bin Haji Muda became president of PAS in 1971. Under Datuk Asri, the party’s main efforts shifted to the east coast and were devoted to governing in Kelantan. Despite advocating an Islamic state federally, the PAS Kelantan government made no effort to institute such a model there. Although Islam was often the idiom invoked, PAS’s appeal still contained strong ethnic overtones.
In 1973, for a variety of reasons centering on retaining control of the Kelantan state government, PAS joined the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition under UMNO’s domination. PAS was then increasingly plagued by internal dissension. In December 1977, PAS quit the coalition, and in a state election the following year PAS was crushed, ending nineteen years of rule in Kelantan.
Datuk Asri’s position in PAS was weakened considerably by the events of 1977-1978; this led to increasing influence by the reformist Islamists. The party shifted perceptibly to a greater priority on Islamic matters. PAS now called not just for a vague Islamic State, but for alterations in the federal constitution to bring it more in line with Islamic law and administration, and it criticized the government’s policies as being devoid of spiritual values.
By 1982 an Islamic fundamentalist revival was sweeping Malaysia. Following a general election in which PAS failed to recapture Kelantan, at the PAS general assembly in October, under large posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Datuk Asri and a majority of the “old guard” were purged. The party came under the control of a group of young, largely Arabic-educated, Islamic reformists led by Haji Fadzil Noor of Kedah (who in 1989 became the president) and Haji Hadi Awang of Trengganu (who in 1989 became the deputy president), and a more powerful Council of Ulamak (Ar., `ulama’ religiously learned) to guide the party.
Despite energetic new leadership, PAS performed badly in the 1986 elections, partly because it aligned itself with “infidels” in an opposition front. Further, many Malays were alienated by the party’s efforts to invoke pure Islamic values by calling for an end to ethnic preferences such as Malay Special Rights and the New Economic Policy.
For the 1990), elections PAS found itself in a promising opposition coalition made possible by a major UMNO split. The party’s election manifesto advocated government based on the teachings of Islam and the promotion of syariat (Ar., shari`ah; Islamic law) as the highest source of law in the country, but it made no specific mention of seeking an Islamic state. The manifesto also promised to protect the interests of non-Muslims.
The opposition coalition was decisively defeated, but PAS managed to recapture the state of Kelantan. The PAS Mentri Besar (chief minister) of Kelantan, a religious teacher, has gradually, but not without controversy, started to islamize the structures and laws of the state government.
Although PAS today is led by Islamic fundamentalists, its strength has always been based on rural Malay peasants and traditional village religious leaders who are not always receptive to fundamentalism. The party’s old nationalist theme that UMNO had sold out the birthrights of the Malays is no longer very credible, and on moderate Islamic issues UMNO has in many ways “outIslamed” PAS. While PAS has retained its traditional support, in the midst of a decade of prosperity for the Malays the PAS Islamic reformers have not been able to promote the hereafter sufficiently to win new support away from UMNO.
[See also Malaysia; United Malays National Organization.]
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Alias Mohamed. Malaysia’s Islamic Opposition. Kuala Lumpur, 1991. This short, lightly footnoted book discusses the history and politics of PAS from the perspective of a Kelantanese critic.
Funston, N. J. Malay Politics in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, 198o. Good comparison of the origins and development of the two major Malay political parties.
Kessler, Clive. Islam and Politics in a Malay State: Kelantan, 18391969. Ithaca, N.Y., 1978. Interesting defense of PAS politics in Kelantan.
Marican, Y. Mansoor. “Malay Nationalism and the Islamic Party of Malaysia.” Islamic Studies 16.1 (Spring 1976): 291-301. Explores the link between Malay nationalism, ethnicity, and Islam inside PAS.
Mauzy, Diane K. Barisan Nasional. Kuala Lumpur, 1983. Account of Tun Razak’s coalition-building strategy that brought PAS and several other parties into the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. Means, Gordon P. Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation. Singapore, 1991. Comprehensive modern political history; very useful successor to his original Malaysian Politics.
Milne, R. S., and Diane K. Mauzy. Politics and Government in Malaysia. 2d ed., rev. Singapore and Vancouver, B.C., 198o. Includes detailed discussion of postindependence party politics and the political process.
Muzaffar, Chandra. “Introduction” to The Universalism of Islam, pp. 6-9. Penang, 1979. Points out the ethnic dimension in agitation by Malays for the establishment of an Islamic state.
Muzaffar, Chandra. Islamic Resurgence in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya, 1987. Discussion of the nature of the resurgence and its political ramifications.
Nagata, Judith. Malaysian Mosaic. Vancouver, B.C., 1979. Solid study of ethnicity in Malaysia; especially strong on the role of Islam.
Nagata, Judith. The Reflowering of Malaysian Islam: Modern Religious Radicals and Their Roots. Vancouver, B.C., 1984. Detailed investigation into and analysis of the Islamic resurgence and the groups leading it.
DIANE K. MAUZY

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/partai-islam-se-malaysia/
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  • writerPosted On: June 25, 2017
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