PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malay Muslims in Malaysia are not united today because of one "old leader" who split them up into different parties, said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in an apparent jibe at his predecessor-turned-critic Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Without naming names, Najib said the leader was to blame for causing the Malays to be divided into three separate parties during his administration.
"Now that he has retired, he has divided the Muslims further into five groups by forming another party," Najib said in an audio recording of a speech posted on his blog on Friday.
"This leader has a habit of being quarrelsome, acting like a hypocrite, he slanders them one moment, but then befriends them the next."
Even though it is already 13 years since he stepped down as prime minister, Mahathir, spearheading a relentless campaign to oust Najib, is still held in high regard by rural Malays.
His de facto leadership of the opposition's campaign to dislodge Najib over graft claims linked to financial mismanagement at the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment firm has already divided opinion, drawing scepticism from segments of civil society still wary of the man they accuse of being a dictator during his 22 years in power.
Najib said Muslims in this country were finding it difficult to unite because of this former leader's actions, blaming the latter for complicating efforts to achieve a united ummah.
"He has thrown many harsh words at me when he too was not spared from accusations, such as being called kepala perompak (chief of robbers) but everyone knows I am not the first person he has abused.
"Many others were victimised by him in the past but have been picked up (as allies) again for political reasons at certain times," Najib said.
The Prime Minister said all Muslims were considered brothers, and as such, he had tried to befriend parties with majority Muslim members although they may disagree in terms of political ideology.
"A Muslim leader has the heavy responsibility of uniting the ummah. I strongly hold on to this principle as it is called for in the holy Quran.
"I humbly urge all of us to stop quarrelling. Let's go back to being united to form an ummah that is strong and successful," Najib added.