The Kota Baru hair salon issue is hot potato now, but apparently not a new issue if reports claim that this has been happening for some time (“According to the Sunday Star, Ong had been applying for a licence since 2011...", Malaysiakini report). So why did MCA Kelantan not raise this before? If it weren't an election period, would they care?
Initial newspaper reports sensationalised the issue without checking the full circumstances behind the council’s actions, and MCA gleefully made full political capital of it without going to the council for a detailed explanation.
So are they really interested in helping the salon owners, or they are just making full use of the issue? Now that the council has given its reasons, we see that this is a mountain out of a molehill.
As in any case, there are two sides to any story, and the council has made a valid point about salons being prone to vice. On the one hand, MCA makes noise about the salon issue, but on the other, should vice flourish in Kota Baru, I would expect Umno will make an issue of how Kelantan's Islamic values are false.
It's a no-win situation for the opposition.
Personally as a non-Muslim I and my male family members have never gone to get haircuts from women. Only one member does, and he goes not because of the excellent haircut skills. In the 60s my mother once complained to me how my uncle used to visit a unisex salon and what happened after the scissors completed its job. She said she had spied on him.
So it is rather unfair just to argue on one side of the issue without considering the council's responsibilities. A simple resolution, had proper channels been taken to tackle this issue, would be to work out with the councils to bar Muslims from the unisex salons, and have strict checks to ensure that only haircuts are given out.
PAS cannot simply segregate the whole country just because there is a possibility of vice. That's just taking the easy way out, and in the process of making your job simpler, you are impinging on basic human rights.
However, politicians are not interested in win-win solutions. They are only interested to win the elections.
And to be fair to non-Muslims genuinely affected by the laws, let this be a lesson to PAS and Pakatan Rakyat. Even when the ends were meant well, anything can be turned against it.
This warrants prudence and wisdom in governance, especially when it comes to PAS, who must at this juncture realise it cannot go on as it has before.
If it aspires to be part of a government of a multicultural nation, then it must educate its members and officials to change their mentality. It is no longer ketuanan whatever, whether Melayu or Islam, but ketuanan rakyat, regardless of race or religion.
I believe PAS members to a degree are also victims of 55 years of ketuanan brainwashing, even if they call it the more palatable ‘ketuanan Islam’. They have to start learning to care about the sensitivities of other races and religions when they go about their business, and shed that half-century notion that it is okay to do anything that pleases the majority, just because the minority never speak up or are used to their pleas being ignored.
This will be true especially in states like Sarawak where Muslims, and Malays, are the minority. Perhaps PAS ulama and Islamic conservatives need to go to these non-Muslim areas and get an earful from non-Muslims, so they can wake up.
Ruling Malaysia is a whole different ballgame from ruling Kelantan, where even that they cannot do properly if incidents like these show.
If PAS even dares to aspire for their chief Hadi Awang to be PM and to court non-Muslim support, then they have to start behaving like responsible, caring legislators of all religions and peoples, not just be satisfied with being pious Islamic officials that do not give a hoot when the matter involves something outside Islam
And in this respect, I have to agree with critics like those from MCA, that right now, PAS shows it will be unable to implement hudud or any Islamic law fairly as its people cannot seem to grasp the concepts I have just mentioned.
In any case, the issue is timely as Pakatan, if it aspires to form government, really needs to sit down and set policies on cross religious and cultural matters.
For example, it needs a common platform agreed by all parties to tackle non-Muslim matters, this including places of worship of the non-Muslims, especially recognising the matter of small scale Hindu shrines that are part of the Hindu culture that cannt simply be looked at from the angle of a land issue.
On the other hand, BN has absolutely no channel to tackle these issues, to them they are simply non-existent and ignored, and become issues only for political reasons.
Pakatan, and especially PAS, needs to do things differently from the past BN's 55 years, if they want true backing from the rakyat.