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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Beneath the quiet piety of Ramadan, tensions simmer in PAS and Umno

The G18 splinter group of moderate leaders from PAS at a gathering last month shortly after losing all control in the Islamist party to the ulama faction. – The Malaysian Insider pic, July 1, 2015.The G18 splinter group of moderate leaders from PAS at a gathering last month shortly after losing all control in the Islamist party to the ulama faction. – The Malaysian Insider pic, July 1, 2015.
As Muslims across the world fast to increase their piety, in Malaysia, the country's two largest Malay-Muslim parties are at war within, unable to set aside internal differences during the holy month of Ramadan.
Programmes aimed at enhancing Muslims' faith, such as buka puasa events, Ramadan sermons, and sahur, have instead turned into activities to win support and attack opponents within these two rival parties that vie for the Malay-Muslim vote.
In PAS, many had assumed the Islamist party's troubles would come to an end once the pro-ulama faction took over the leadership at recent party elections, but this has not been the case.
"No, it is not slowing down. On the contrary, it is escalating, in PAS and in Umno. Most activities happen during the night, after they spent the whole day fasting," said Mohamad Hisomuddin Bakar, a political analyst from the Ilham Center.
Hisomuddin said supper after Terawih prayers had now become the focal point of political activity in Kelantan, with many gathering together to eat after fasting an entire day and performing their prayers at the surau and mosque.
Speculation is rife that a new Islamic party – a splinter group after the fractious elections – will be formed in Kelantan, despite the fact that the state has been PAS's stronghold for years.
"We are making preparations for that," said a veteran Kelantan PAS leader, who was unhappy with recent developments in the party.
The splinter group have been dubbed the G18, which comprise "progressive" PAS leaders who were ousted at the party polls earlier this month. The group has been very active this fasting month, despite having lost in the party election.
The chairman of G18's action committee, Mohamad Sabu, had used the theme "uniting the character (akhlak) and faith (akidah)" as his theme during his Ramadan sermon in the Al Muhtadin mosque in Kulim, Kedah last Sunday.
He claimed that the split within PAS was because some leaders only cared for faith, yet had no character.
The newly-elected PAS leadership of conservative ulama or clerics, have also organised large events throughout the month of Ramadan. PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's speech in Penang several days ago created a buzz when he spoke of "dogs and wolves".
While PAS's internal conflict came to a head when the pro-ulama group defeated the professionals at the annual congress, Umno has yet to reach that stage, but is seeing its fair share of tensions as lines are drawn over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who has come under fire for his policies and governance.
"Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's group is under huge pressure now that Datuk Seri Najib Razak has announced that the party polls will be postponed by up to two years, as he had previously said the polls will go on," said Hisomuddin.
He said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's attacks on the prime minister's administration had a significant impact on the youth and Umno veterans.
"The veterans still remember Dr Mahathir's contributions when he led Umno for 22 years, while the youth are exposed to information through social media," said Hisomuddin.
Hisomuddin said these two groups appeared very negative towards Najib's administration as they seemed to be siding with Dr Mahathir.
Despite Ramadan being a season of quiet reflection, this fasting month could well be the time when moves are planned and plots are hatched.
- TMI

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