Seminar: The “Democrat Muslim” Rashid Ghannouchi and His Influence on Malaysia’s Parti Amanah Negara
About the Seminar
On 16 September 2015, a group of progressive leaders of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) resigned after being side-lined in its 2015 Muktamar. Together with like-minded Islamic NGOs’ members, they went on to form their own party – Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah). The formation of Amanah is an attempt to save the moderate Islamic political thought that was once embraced by PAS. They claim that the PAS leadership elected in the 2015 PAS Muktamar are embracing an unacceptable conservative position. Amanah, along with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti KeAdilan Rakyat (KeAdilan), soon established a new opposition loose coalition called ‘Pakatan Harapan’ (PH) to replace the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition that fell apart after PAS pushed its hudud agenda in parliament.
In differentiating itself from PAS, Amanah leaders claim that they are inspired partly by the Turkish AKP and Tunisian Ennahda Party. They thus embrace the thoughts and philosophy of Rachid Ghannouchi, the co-founder and current ideologue of Ennahda. Ghannouchi is known for his acceptance of democracy as part of Islamic thought understood through Maqasid al-Shari’ah (the Highest Objectives of Shari’ah). He emphasizes inclusivity, democracy and openness, and his approach presents a modern democratic age for Muslims around the globe. Recently, he departed from the conventional notion of ‘Political Islam’ to embrace a new discourse on the ‘Democrat Muslim’.
Apart from Amanah, Ghannouchi’s ideas have been quoted by several other Islamic NGOs in Malaysia such as Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM) and Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) to explain their departure from the conventional ‘Political Islam’ discourse and their more inclusive political approach. A study conducted on Amanah leaders and members indicates that they are so far consistent in their adherence to Ghannouchi’s idea of ‘Democrat Muslims’ and their disavowal of the conventional ‘Political Islam’ aspiration. Ghannouchi’s approach does bring ‘Islamic’ legitimacy to Amanah’s involvement in non-Islamic, non-Muslim and secular alliances. This development may shape Muslim politics in Malaysia in ways that can overshadow the current race-based and religiously exclusive discourse now widely practised amongst in the Malay community.
About the Speaker
Dr Maszlee Malik completed his BA (Islamic studies) in Jordan in 1994 and then obtained his PhD (Political Science) from Durham University, UK in 2011. He has experienced teaching at Durham University in 2008-9, and was a guest speaker for SOAS summer school on ‘Political Islam’ in 2009-10 on the topic ‘Political Islamic Movements in South-East Asia’. He is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Maszlee is also a senior fellow of IDEAS, a libertarian think tank in Malaysia. Since 2015, he has been invited by the Malaysian government to participate in its rehabilitation program for IS-alleged detainees. Maszlee is frequently invited as guest speaker by many Malaysian media to talk on the issues pertaining to Islam and Muslim politics. Currently, he is a Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.