Over the weekend in Kota Baru, we caught a glimpse of what goes on in PAS and what it is capable of from the debates and discussions at its muktamar.
One thing is clear, the PAS muktamar was like a breath of fresh air for those who truly believe in democracy. The rank and file questioned the leadership and even ticked off leaders and their party newspaper, Harakah, for its fashionable liberal views.
But did you hear angry words or haranguing from the leaders? No. The PAS leaders responded with reasoned replies and not threats. It was a civil and intelligent exchange of ideas during the muktamar.
Also, no shrill declarations, no waving of keris or talk about Malay dominance under threat or a Christian conspiracy to take over the country or even the political threat posed by non-Malays or non-Muslims.
One can hazard a guess that only insecure people would suggest such scenarios to maintain their hold on power and position. But not the PAS leadership.
Of course, BN-controlled The Star and other mainstream media did its darnest to scare-monger against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang about becoming the prime minister if Pakatan Rakyat takes Putrajaya.
Or that the PAS leadership is hell-bent on implementing hudud for all and sundry and that would affect our Malaysian way of life that we should be grateful for over the past 55 years.
But truth be told, the craziest comment on hudud came from a former Umno president and it appears the conscience of the party, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He had said that hudud should be applied to non-Malays and Malays equally. That one statement tells us the difference between PAS and Umno: PAS is fair and Umno tramples over the rights of non-Malays as it sees fit.
You don’t see him say that all benefits should be given to non-Malays and Malays alike, do you? Yet, this is politics and Umno politicians know how to make their opponents appear more unreasonable than them.
Yet, PAS has shown over a weekend that it can be as democratic as other parties in the West, and accept differing views. That it has a leadership that recognises what Malaysia is now and has the ability to work with other parties for a better Malaysia.
PAS has changed since it was formed in 1951. So has Malaysia from the time of independence when we were grateful to the Alliance for getting Malaya independent.
The greatest change is, of course, we now know the value of our vote. And PAS this weekend showed it is one of the possible choices to govern Malaysia in a democratic and fair manner. Amen to that
* Shamsul Jamal reads The Malaysian Insider