Back to the past as PAS maps out its future

Delegates listening to a keynote address by Parti Islam SeMalaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang at the party's annual congress in Kota Baru yesterday. He says that the party is willing to cooperate with any party that supports its goal of making Malays
Delegates listening to a keynote address by Parti Islam SeMalaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang at the party's annual congress in Kota Baru yesterday. He says that the party is willing to cooperate with any party that supports its goal of making Malaysia more Islamic in its outlook.PHOTO: FOTOBERNAMA

Malaysia's main Islamic party returns to its 'Islamic State' agenda

Malaysia's main Islamic party yesterday vowed to embrace more conservative Islamic policies in its struggle, casting aside nearly a decade of measured language when talking about its religious goals that had helped Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) gain non-Muslim supporters.

Reverting to its old fundamentalist positions, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang in his keynote address at the party's annual congress said the "separation of politics, economy and worldly affairs (from Islam) does not exist", and said it is willing to cooperate with any party that supports its goal of making Malaysia more Islamic in its outlook.

"Islamic nations including Malaysia that pray towards Allah's House in Mecca but are politically and economically directed towards the White House in Washington or other superpowers are now suffering," he said. "Under the concept of striving for perfected Islam, we must have faith that only Islam can solve all problems," he told some 1,500 party delegates from across the country. The congress, which ends today, is being held in the PAS stronghold state of Kelantan.

PAS had, in the last two general elections in 2008 and 2013, abandoned its previous "Islamic State" agenda for Malaysia that was scorned by non-Muslims and found little traction outside the Malay Muslim belt in the east of Peninsular Malaysia. It had instead adopted the "Welfare State" and "PAS for all" slogans, and joined secular opposition parties, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

But with the death of the party's revered spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat 15 months ago, PAS moderates left the party. It fought bitterly with the DAP, and it is now mulling over severing ties with PKR.

Last week, Mr Hadi, an MP from Terengganu, cooperated with former arch-enemy Umno to present the "hudud" Bill on the Islamic penal code that is strongly opposed by non-Muslim Malaysians. At least four non-Muslim Cabinet ministers said they would quit their posts if the Bill is passed in Parliament.

Mr Hadi, asked yesterday at a press conference if PAS is re-adopting its "Islamic State" ideology, said the party wanted to "revive what was achieved by Islam 1,400 years ago".

PAS and Umno are banking on getting more Malay votes with the hudud Bill move, but the Islamic party has insisted it would not join the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. Ties between the opposition parties, already badly fractured in the past one year, are set to worsen with the tone adopted by PAS delegates at the congress.

Their relationship will be openly tested in the next three weeks with two by-elections in Selangor and Perak. Both seats are expected to see contests among PAS, Amanah and incumbents Umno.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2016, with the headline 'Back to the past as PAS maps out its future'. Print Edition | Subscribe