Some background information in case you're not familiar with Malaysian politics: Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) is a small opposition political party in Malaysian politics that, by non-Muslim/Western standards, would be considered "Islamist." They have governed several of the smaller northern states over the years, but got a thorough drubbing in the 2004 general election, being reduced to a mere seven seats in Parliament. Part of the reason for their electoral unpopularity had been their constant call for Malaysia to become an Islamic state, including the implementation of hudud and qisas laws. However, that rhetoric has been toned down in the past five years, and support for PAS has increased substantially since then, especially, as the Straits Times article points out, among the non-Muslim Indian population. (Indians make up 7.1% of the Malaysian population, according to the CIA World Factbook.) In Malaysian politics, this is newsworthy!)
Mr. Balendran's [a Malaysian Indian who is Hindu according to the article] view: "If PAS takes over Malaysia, I will be very happy because there will be no more corruption and Malaysia will be in a good situation."
The PAS Supporters' Club for non-Muslims was founded in 2004 with just 100 members, said its founder, Mr. Hu Pang Chow.
Its membership was at 10,000 last year, but has surged to 50,000 since the opposition made big gains in the  general election and PAS joined the Pakatan Rakyat ["People's Coalition"] opposition alliance, he said.
So why do non-Muslims opt for PAS, instead of the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) or the multi-racial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)?
Mr. Hu said those who join the club see PAS as "being the most principled and sincere." The bulk of the members are ethnic Indians.
Some members are avoiding PKR, which is seen by some Indians as not being strong in supporting Indian issues. And some Indians feel that DAP is too Chinese-centric.
PAS has always been demonized by ruling Barisan Nasional coalition leaders as the party that will implement its strict version of Islam in Malaysia.
But Mr. Balendran said he is not worried about the PAS aim of setting up an Islamic state or implementing shariah laws - including hudud, which prescribes amputation and stoning - because he says such laws would apply only to Muslims.
The steady 18-year rule by PAS of Kelantan state has also boosted trust among some non-Muslims, said Mr. Hu.
Social scientist Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia also credits PAS' religious credentials for its popularity.
"It has religion as its backbone and the perception is that it is more sincere and will be able to uphold equality and the welfare of the people," he said.
PAS has also toned down its rhetoric on an Islamic state with the emergence of more moderate-minded young leaders.
PAS is now working towards setting up a full-member wing for non-Muslims within the party.
This is expected to happen by next year, pending approval from its central chiefs and an amendment to the party Constitution. ...