By P Ramasamy
June 15, 2015
The former deputy president of PAS, Mat Sabu, might be upset for having lost in the party’s recent by-election. However, his recent comments indicate that sectarianism among the Muslim community is on the rise.
He predicts that if left unchecked, Islamic political parties like PAS might be on a trajectory of replicating the features of IS (Islamic State), the most radical and extreme Islamic organisation in the Middle-East, currently fighting with pro-government forces both in Iraq and Syria.
The Ulama gained considerable strength in PAS over the years when the decision to distance itself from the narrow nationalism of Umno brought support to the party from the Malay/Muslim community.
From a religious angle, the party became the alternative representative of the Malay/Muslims in the country. With this transition, Umno lost its legitimacy as the sole representative of the Malays.
However, as the Ulama gained strength in PAS, a religious differentiation of sorts took place in the party with serious political ramifications.
Malay/Muslims, especially the professionals came to be looked upon as the “real” enemy of the Ulama group. This differentiation became much more pronounced after PAS joined forces with DAP and PKR to form a loose coalition called Pakatan Rakyat.
With the formation of PR, and after two general elections, further differentiation between the professionals and ulama took place.
The fact that professionals worked well with DAP non-Muslim leaders was something that did not endear them to the ulama, an ultra-conservative group under the leadership of Hadi Awang.
I believe that the recent muktamar is not going to be the last purge within PAS against the professionals and those who do not agree to the ulama’s Islamic ‘way’.
In the coming days, weeks and months, a major cleansing campaign will be launched by the ulama to rid the party of the remaining professionals.
Whether the professionals will opt to join another political party or form a new party remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure; the increasing sectarianism within PAS will give rise to new forms of extremism.
Mat Sabu may be right in predicting that present circumstances may allow for IS forms of thinking where the presence of non-Malays will be frowned upon and internal divisions with Muslims might assume dangerous proportions.
The on-going internal differentiation within PAS provides a perfect recipe for the development of ties with Umno and other Islamic parties in the country.
Unfortunately, relationships with non-Malays will soon become part of the forgotten history of Malaysia.
The Muslim world seems rather ill-prepared to face and deal effectively with the worst form of sectarianism and extremism expressed entirely in religious terms.
Muslims in Malaysia who have failed to differentiate their culture from Arab culture will not be spared this sectarianism.
PAS, for all its good work, has taken a major retreat in working out the details between Malay culture and Islam.
As Mat Sabu has so eloquently predicted, PAS is heading for a major disaster.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.