KUALA LUMPUR • The chief of Malaysia's Islamist party PAS has again indicated that non-Muslims will have only a secondary role in government, should his party take power in the next general election.
Muslims in his Cabinet would set policy direction in Malaysia while the non-Muslim ministers would be tasked only with carrying out what had been decided, said Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang.
"If PAS rules, it (the administration) will be divided into two. One, a Cabinet that decides on national policies. This must consist of people who adopt the national ideology and faith," he was quoted as saying on Sunday by The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site.
"This Cabinet will appoint an executive Cabinet to carry out the policies and the members can be non-Muslims, appointed based on their expertise," he added.
It was not clear what he meant by "the national ideology and faith", but Islam is Malaysia's official religion.
Datuk Seri Hadi made the comments during a dialogue with Indian non-governmental organisations in Penang on Sunday, when asked whether there was a place for Indians in a PAS federal Cabinet.
Mr Hadi courted controversy last December when he said the Malaysian government should be led only by Malay-Muslims.
Since independence, each member of the multi-ethnic Cabinet has had an equal voice on policy decisions. Malaysia has been ruled by the 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition since independence.
The PAS chief on Monday said news reports saying he was mulling over two different Cabinets, one consisting of Muslims and another of non-Muslims, were wrong.
"It's not a dual Cabinet but the distribution of duties," Malaysiakini news site quoted him as saying.
The concept of those professing the "national faith" formulating national policies was contained in Islamic scriptures, he was further quoted as saying.
PAS holds only 13 of the 222 seats in the national Parliament. But the opposition party has said it aims to take over the country and bring its version of Islamist rule to Malaysia.
Mr Hadi said last month that it aims to win a simple majority of 112 seats at the upcoming polls.
PAS officials have said that at worst, they hope to win 40 parliamentary seats so they can play the role of kingmaker.
The party's best electoral performance was winning 27 parliamentary seats in 1999.
At the Sunday event with the Indian NGOs, Mr Hadi was also asked whether PAS would introduce hudud, the Islamic criminal code that includes amputations for thieves. He did not answer the question directly, according to TMI.
"If there is hudud, it will follow what is already provided in the federal constitution or state enactments. But non-Muslims will be given a choice of whether to (be governed by) hudud or civil law," he was quoted as saying.
But if people understood hudud better, he said, they would choose it over civil law because it is a fair system. "Hudud does not seek to punish. It seeks to educate by way of instilling fear in people before they commit a crime," TMI quoted him as saying.