restricted access The Malaysian Islamic Party PAS 1951–2013: Islamism in a Mottled Nation by Farish Noor (review)
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The Malaysian Islamic Party PAS 1951–2013: Islamism in a Mottled Nation
Farish Noor
Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2016, 260pp.
ISBN 978-967-0960-17-3

This book The Malaysian Islamic Party PAS 1951–2013: Islamism in a Mottled Nation is a reprinted version of the original, which was published by Amsterdam University Press in 2014. The text details the history of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) in an account that many scholars consider comprehensive and compelling. The lack of primary sources related to the early days of PAS mentioned briefly by the author appears to have little effect on this study. The book proposes and analyses internal and external chains of events that have shaped PAS. Subsequently, the text offers a critical observation of the Islamism adopted and promoted by the party from 1951 to 2013.

The first four chapters of this book provide a historical account of PAS and are organized chronologically. The 62 years covered in this study are divided into four phases. The first phase covers the early days of PAS (1951–69). The author describes how the history of Islam inspired resistance even from the nineteenth century to the days of Burhanudin Helmi, who was influenced by the developments in the Muslim world both inside and outside the Malay Archipelago. However, from 1970–82 PAS experienced a dark period, as the party turned inward from internationalism to communitarianism under the leadership and narrow worldview of Asri Musa, whose focus was confined to the Malay Archipelago. In the discussion of the party’s third phase (1982–99), the author focuses on changes that took place within PAS under Yusof Rawa, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat. This section also describes the party’s struggles to improve and freshen its image while responding to global Islamist movements. The fourth phase revolves around the story of PAS in the first thirteen years of the twenty-first century. The author interprets PAS’s performance by examining the results of general elections, which are classified and placed in the corresponding four phases mentioned above. The author offers his own analysis of PAS in the book’s last chapter by discussing the nature of the party’s politics, the Islamic State and Islamism.

PAS, an Islamist opposition party formed on 24 November 1951, advocates the formation of an Islamic state in Malaysia. The author contends that PAS is a political party that readily re-invents and changes itself according to its political needs. Such an argument is antithetical to studies that demonstrate that PAS perceives Islam as a way of life founded on solid principles sanctioned for Muslims by God. In a study of the history of PAS in Kelantan from 1953 to 1959, Paridah Ali (1973) conducted an interview with the Kelantan state secretary, who recognized PAS as a party based on Islam that observes Islam as a way of life. Similarly, Mohd Izani (2007) conveys [End Page 147] Islam as the essence of PAS’s development. Members of the party are convinced that the implementation of an Islamic state will bring about spiritual regeneration and enhance quality of life (Lukman Thaib, 2013).

Nevertheless, the author clarifies his argument through a detailed consideration of the Islamism propagated by PAS throughout his book. In the analysis regarding the trajectory of Islamism under a myriad of political and historical developments, the author affirms that PAS has changed the meaning and the content signifier of an Islamic state according to the context, time and place that PAS found itself in. According to the author, for PAS, Islam has played an instrumental and political role as the party’s Islamism continues to change in tandem with the party leaders’ preferences.

In the first chapter, the author demonstrates how under Burhanudin Helmi, PAS dedicated its Islamism to ‘left leaning Islamism’ in the belief that nationalism, socialism and Islamism are related. By contrast, Asri Musa (1969–82) nurtured a new image for PAS as a rightist supporter in line with his ultra-nationalist sentiments. Asri Musa decided to bring PAS into the ruling coalition party in 1973 and painted an image of PAS as defender of exclusive...


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