Saturday 4 June 2011

Some lessons from PAS muktamar — The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 4 — Beyond the headlines in the past few days, some interesting facts and storylines have been thrown up by the PAS elections. These include:

Lesson Number 1: For all the stereotyping of PAS as a party of backward religious types, these elections have shown that the Islamic political party is committed to democratic principles.
In the months before the polls, it was clear that this was going to be a tough and possibly acrimonious polls between the religious class and the progressives. Some argued that the PAS leadership should have postponed the bruising elections in view of coming general elections.

No way.

PAS went ahead with the party elections, believing that electing leaders is a crucial part of democracy. Unlike Umno who has postponed its party elections for fear of infighting. Unlike the MCA which has also postponed its party election.

Sure, the PAS leadership may have their work cut out in bridging gap between the ulamas and the progressives but would you prefer politicians who delay tackling an issue or those who confront issues headlong?

Lesson Number 2: Calling all future election candidates: if you want to win a contest, engineer it so that Utusan Malaysia and the mainstream media will campaign for your opponent.

In the run up to the PAS elections, Utusan Malaysia campaigned for Nasharuddin Mat Isa and others in the ulama class, believing that this group was more amenable to working with Umno.

Not a day went by without Utusan Malaysia talking up the need for PAS to be run by the ulamas (a curious happening given that the paper's owner ridicules PAS's brand of Islam).

So what happens? Nasharuddin the incumbent number 2 is soundly beaten by Mat Sabu, a PAS veteran who enjoys close ties with Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim. Also, Husam Musa — a favourite target of Utusan Malaysia — got in as one of the three vice-presidents.

Perhaps this is another sign of the waning influence of Utusan, a paper read and believed only by Umno members. This fact should worry Umno because its mouthpiece is losing the ability to shape opinion outside hardcore party supporters.

Lesson Number 3: You didn't hear Ustaz Hadi Awang speaking about Malay rights, about apportioning contracts to Malay business, about banning the Bible, about crushing Christians.

What you heard during the presidential address was some idea about a welfare state which PAS wants to introduce if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power; on how Umno had corrupted and made Malays unthinking,etc.

Basically, you did not have table thumping and fire and brimstone speeches and threatening gestures you find at the Umno assembly.

Point is that the PAS leaders may not come across as urbane or sophisticated but they seem to dislike playing the race card. That is refreshing in this racially polarised country. And reflects what Islam is all about. 

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