Umno was directly involved in facilitating the creation of PAS. Eager to boost its own Islamic credentials and expand its appeal to the Islamic voter base, Umno sponsored the first congregation of ulama. The congregation’s third assembly voted to reorganise themselves under the banner of Persatuan Ulamak Se-Malaya in 1951, which became Persatuan Islam Se-Malaya and then Persatuan Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), which we know today.
PAS was once part of Barisan Nasional. After the May 13 tragedy, Tun Abdul Razak invited all the major political parties to form a grand coalition, akin to the post-GE13 national reconciliation. DAP and Parti Rakyat Sosialis Malaysia were the only two parties which abstained. However, the Umno-PAS project ended bitterly in 1977. In the following elections, the party was split in half and PAS lost Kelantan to Umno-Berjasa. This is one of the reasons that leaders like Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat will never agree to cooperate with Umno again.
Following the 1977-1978 crisis, Nik Aziz and Tuan Guru Yusof Rawa both openly challenged the then president Asri Muda. Asri was perceived to be too stubborn and acting on his own will. His racial rhetoric and decision to join Barisan Nasional did not sit well with party members and the fourth PAS President was eventually forced to resign by the ulama faction of the party. This is not the first time that PAS members challenged their leaders as the first president too faced internal resistance and stepped down. Unquestionable loyalty to the president, as mooted by certain folks recently, is clearly not part of PAS history.
The ulama faction is not an evil group that should be demonised. They believe in a set of moral rules derived from the Quran and Sunnah. For them, Islam is justice. Islam is the Good. Anyone who has conviction for his/her ideal of the Good would want to seize power and govern as accorded by that ideal of the Good. In terms of seizing power to impose their ideals on society, the communists, socialists, capitalists, libertarians, and Islamists are no different from each other. The issue is, which idea is right? This is probably something we could never agree on.
Unlike other political parties, there’s a clear contestation of ideas within PAS. There exists several camps within PAS but the most obvious divisions are between the professionals and the ulama. They have diverse ideas and distinct means to achieve the same goal: a more just and Islamic society. While politicians in other parties are competing for leadership positions mostly out of personal ambitions, there is no denying that many PAS leaders do it for the ideas that they represent rather than for contracts and personal ambition.
PAS is exclusively made up of Malay-Muslims, but the party is not racist (or at least it is not meant to be). Nik Aziz often warned the people to not cling to the spirit of asabiyah (overzealous attachment to one's tribe, clan, or/and race). At one point, he said the term Bumiputera and Ketuanan Melayu smack of racism. Through the initiative of Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the son of the fourth president, PAS created the Dewan Perhimpunan Penyokong PAS that allows non-Muslims to be involved in PAS for the first time. However, this falls short of membership and voting rights. In an Islamist party (or an Islamic State), a non-Muslim can never be an equal to a Muslim, especially in terms of politics.
The fifth PAS President, Datuk Haji Fadzil Noor, the sixth PAS President, Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, and Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim are all from the same batch of ABIM leaders. They knew each other long time ago. Ustaz Fadzil was Anwar’s deputy when the latter was the president of ABIM, and he was the one who helped to launch GERAK and support the Reformasi movement. It’s a far cry from PAS’ muted response to Anwar’s recent court verdict.
The louder the ulama faction gets, the more we have to vote for PAS. There are at least two camps in PAS right now, pro-Pakatan Rakyat and pro-Unity Government with Umno. If we (the urban, middle class voters) abandon PAS, the pro-Pakatan Rakyat leaders will lose out. Think of the more liberal, moderate and professional leaders of PAS such as Dr Dzul, Salehuddin Ayub, Husam Musa, Dr Mujahid, and Khalid Samad.
These people are dependent on our votes. The conservative faction can afford the rhetoric of Malay unity because that’s appealing to their voter base. We should be giving support and empowering those leaders within PAS that are trying to create change. If we fail to do so, this group will only get weaker and the conservative group will totally dominate the party.
PAS is not the one going to implement hudud. Umno is. PAS will never have the numbers to do it. Before forming coalitions (Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah, Barisan Alternatif and Pakatan Rakyat), PAS is not a dominant player in national politics. Its influence is concentrated in Kelantan and Terengganu, with some presence in other northern states. By itself, PAS will not have the means to pass the hudud bill. Umno on the other hand has the numbers. The passage or rejection of the hudud bill is ultimately dependent on Umno’s answer.
PAS is not ready to govern. The party cannot even get its act together or abide by the agreement made with its coalition partners. Many of its leaders almost never say anything productive or constructive in Parliament. When was the last time we heard PAS leaders debate an economic issue or propose some solutions to the education issue? Other than Dr Dzul and a few others who are being marginalised by the dominant camp, there is no one who has the expertise or the passion.
If the party were to remain at this stage, it is best that they remain a marginal opposition party occasionally making noise during Valentine’s Day, banning this and that, and punishing those who fail to perform Friday prayers. They always deal with trivial matters, but on the big issues, they don’t have anything to contribute. A majority of the ulama, for all their spiritual wisdom, have not given us enough reason to entrust them the task of governing the country. In fact, they often give us even more doubts. – February 28, 2015.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Portal Melaka News