KUALA LUMPUR - The chief of Malaysia's Islamist party PAS has indicated that non-Muslims will only have 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 only be tasked with carrying out what had been decided, said Abdul Hadi Awang, president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
"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 last Sunday (Feb 4) by The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site, during a dialogue with Indian non-governmental organisations in Penang.
"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 Abdul Hadi made the comments on Sunday when asked by an Indian activist on whether there was a place for Indians in a PAS federal cabinet.
Mr Abdul Hadi courted controversy last December (2017) when he said the Malaysian government should only be led by Malay-Muslims.
Since independence, each member of the multi-ethnic Malaysian Cabinet has an equal voice on policy decisions. Malaysia has been ruled by the 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition since independence.
The PAS chief on Monday (Feb 5) said news reports saying he was mulling two different Cabinets, one consisting of Muslims and another for non-Muslims, were wrong.
"Dual cabinet is incorrect, it's not a dual cabinet but the distribution of duties," Mr Abdul Hadi was quoted as telling Malaysiakini news site.
While there would be no dual cabinet, the concept of those professing the "national faith" formulating national policies was contained in Islamic scriptures, he was further quoted as saying.
PAS, an opposition party, has only 13 seats in the 222-seat national Parliament today but has announced its intention to take over the country and bring its version of Islamist rule to Malaysia.
Mr Abdul Hadi said last month that it aims to win a simple majority of 112 seats at the upcoming polls. The party's best electoral performance was winning 27 parliamentary seats in 1999 at the height of Reformasi anger.
PAS officials have said that at worst, they hope to win 40 parliamentary seats to become a kingmaker that would steer South-east Asia's third biggest economy towards the party's Islamist goal.
At the Sunday event with the Indian NGOs, Mr Hadi was also asked whether PAS would introduce hudud, the Islamic crminal 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 was 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.