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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 15:54 GMT
Islamic plan unveiled for Malaysia
Abdul Hadi Awang
PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang said his party would create an Islamic state
Malaysia's main opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), has unveiled its plans for an Islamic state, ahead of elections expected within a year.

The document includes plans for implementing strict Islamic Sharia law, but also commits the party to ending restrictive internal security laws.

PAS has said that non-Muslims would not be answerable to Sharia law.

The Islamic code includes such punishment as amputations and stoning.

The party leader Abdul Hadi Awang said that his party offered the alternative to Western-style democracy, which had led only to "endemic social decadences and rampant injustices".

He said PAS would amend the federal constitution to create an Islamic state, if it wins power in the next election, which Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is expected to call in early 2004.

I don't think this is something that is going to shock society at large
Nasharuddin Mat Isa
PAS Secretary General

PAS controls two out of Malaysia's 13 states, and under its rule gambling is banned, as is dancing and public consumption of alcohol by non-Muslims.

Men and women use separate checkouts at supermarkets.

But the precedence of federal over state law has prevented PAS from introducing Sharia law in these areas.

The government has characterised PAS as a Malaysian version of the hardline Islamic Taleban regime, which used to be in power in Afghanistan.

But PAS is keen to play down allegations that it is extremist.

In an interview with the BBC's East Asia Today programme, the Secretary General of PAS, Nasharuddin Mat Isa, said: " I don't think this is something that is going to shock society at large... as far as Sharia law is concerned, it is only going to be implemented to Muslims, non-Muslims will not be forced to be under this law."

There has been speculation that the Islamist platform of PAS could cause a rift in the opposition front.

Tian Chua, Vice President of the National Justice Party, who are opposition allies of PAS, described the unveiling of the plan for an Islamic state as "untimely".

"Our concern is public perception in a situation where the media is very much controlled by the government," he told East Asia Today.

A Chinese-based opposition party, the Democratic Action Party, pulled out of the alliance in protest at PAS policies in 2001.

Observers say there is little chance that PAS would win the upcoming elections against the government of the new Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi.

He took over leadership of the governing United Malays National Organisation, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad retired at the end of October.

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