"Hah? PAS win ahh?"
"Aiyah, life is going to be difficult lahh. Cannot drink alcohol, cannot buy the nombor ekor ( 4-digit gambling) when they rule the state."
I overheard the conversation while at a shop today, the day after the general election. It was unusually quiet in town, as people are still reeling from the shocking news that the Opposition parties have won five states in the country, as well as denying the ruling party a 2/3 majority. The Chinese middle-aged women thought that I was a Malay as I was in a tudung and baju kurung, so they had no qualms talking in the Hokkien dialect, which so happens to be my mother tongue. That was fine with me because it allowed me to listen in to some very interesting conversations; issues that worry them but which they don't tell the Malays and Muslims.
"You think they will do the hudud law now that they have gain control of the state?"
"Donno la, but if they do I'll migrate, hahaha. "
I don't blame the Chinese for worrying about the Islamic party of Parti Islam se-Malaysia(PAS). I myself used to think that PAS is all about hudud, gender segregation and chopping of hands too. Well, of course, I have been re-educated and enlightened especially after a trip to the PAS-ruled state of Kelantan and staying with the Malay villagers for three days. However, one-sided media reporting and certain propaganda brought forward which tarnish the image of that political party, has distorted the truth. Non-Muslims generally think that PAS intends to build an Islamic state which will alienate them and prevent democracy.
Now that PAS together with PKR and DAP (Barisan Rakyat) have won the election and will form new state governments in Kedah, Selangor and Perak states, many are worried. Their main concerns can sound funny but their fears are real. Unfounded fears but still fears. Even my 62 years old mother and 86 years old grandmother share these concerns.
"If you steal, they will chop off your hands."
I have to stifle a laugh each time I hear this excuse for disliking this political party.
"Why are you afraid of losing your hands? Are you a thief? Do you steal?"
"No, of course not."
"Then why are you afraid? If you obey the law and do not steal, why should they chop off your hands?"
"You should be happy they want to implement this law, because the real thieves will be so afraid of getting caught they might stop stealing and robbing people. Our present laws is so weak, we catch the thieves and then we 'reward' them by putting them in jails and feeding them with food. When they are released, they can continue stealing and robbing."
"Ya lohh horr. "(Yes, you are right).
"Shops can't sell alcohol anymore."
"Are you an alcoholic? Do you drink everyday?"
"No lah, just sometimes, with friends."
"If you want to drink, you can always buy at another place and drink in the comfort of your home, right? Nobody is going to stop you from drinking to death in your own house. Actually alcoholic drinks can be bought from Chinese restaurants. Of course, it'd be better if you stop drinking liquor altogether. Liquor can damage your liver and oesphagus. Islam regards liquor as haram or prohibited because it causes more harm than good. So the prohibition of alcohol sales is actually helping you to live a healthy and productive life."
"Women will be forced to wear the tudung."
"Are you a Muslim woman?"
"Choy, of course not!"
"Then you don't have to wear a tudung. As long as you are decently covered from neck to knee, I don't see why you have to be worried. Muslims women are required to wear a tudung because the Holy Koran instructs every Muslim woman to cover their heads and body, revealing only the face and palms in public. All Muslims know this command but some are stubborn, so they are being reminded through this law."
Well, some of my Kelantanese amoi (Chinese girl) friends wear rather sexy clothes in their hometowns but they have never complained of being harassed by the state authorities.
"We won't be free to pray to our gods. They will try to convert us into Islam."
"Have you been to the Islamic state of Kelantan?"
"No, why should I?"
"If you have been there, you will realise that the non-Muslims there live peacefully among Muslims. In fact, I believe they have better relationships between the Muslism and non-Muslims than in the other more secular states. There is no demolition of temples in Kelantan. In fact, the largest reclining Buddha statue in South-east Asia is in that state. Non-Muslims are free to go and worship at the temple, nobody will stop you."
wat phothivihan in tumpat, kelantan http://www.asiaexplorers.com/malaysia/kelantan/watphothivihan.htm
True, that Buddha statue is very famous and a Buddhist's trip to Kelantan will not be complete if he/she doesn't visit that Siamese temple.
Anyway, I have yet to hear of anyone being forced to convert to Islam in Kelantan without one's free will. If they are being forced, surely all the Chinese in Kelantan would have been Muslims by now, as PAS has ruled that state for 18 years.
"Islamic state means no democracy"
Wrong. There is true democracy in a real Islamic state. We already have a good example of Islamic governance when our beloved prophet Muhammad ruled Madinah. Muslims and non-Muslims lived together happily and peacefully. There was no corruption and crime was almost non-existant.
"It'll be difficult to buy pork."
Chinese and pork. The fact that Muslims don't eat pork seems to be an extra excuse for the non-Muslims Chinese to consume pork as a staple diet. If you don't eat that meat, they'll look at you strangely. As tudung=Malay=Islam, pork is often regarded as pork=Chinese=Taoist/Buddhist. Pork can also be used to test a person's faith, especially if they suspect that you are converting/ have converted to Islam. To the general Chinese population, pork is considered better than chicken - sick people are often given pork to eat but not chicken or fish. Hence pork-consumption is a sensitive issue among the Chinese.
"Heck, who says there is no pork sale in Kelantan? Why do you tink I'm so strong and healthy?"
I've asked so many friends who hails from that state and the answer is, "Yes, there are shops selling pork in Kelantan."
In fact, pork sellers are doing better in that Islamic state than in other states. It is sold openly near Malay shops and nobody raised an eyebrow, unlike in any other BN run-states where shops selling pork placed in secluded corners. The Kelantan authorities don't harass these pork-sellers. Don't believe me, go ask any true-bred Kelantanese Chinese.
Many people who have yet to visit Kelantan have such misconceptions about the PAS-run state because they have believed everything that the main media has wrongly reported. If the standard of living among the non-Muslims in the Islamic state of Kelantan is so bad, then why do they return the mandate to PAS and openly support the party during the election campaign? PAS must have done something right to gain the non-Muslims Chinese' support.
So my advice to my Buddhist mother and grandmother is, please do not panic. I am not a member of any political party. I am just a Muslim who wishes to live in a country that implements Islamic law as instructed in the Koran and al-Sunnah to the best of its government's ability.