KUANTAN - Malaysian opposition party Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) must prioritise electing Muslim leaders - even if they have no integrity, its president Hadi Awang said on Friday (June 21).
"Integrity without Islam is not accepted by Allah, and a person with faith who has no integrity is still better than someone with integrity but no faith," he told 3,000 party delegates and observers at the opening of the party's annual three-day assembly.
Datuk Seri Hadi said in his opening speech that any cooperation must benefit Islam, the country and Malays, and must prioritise Muslim unity.
He also urged non-Muslims to reject what he called "racially fanatic and chauvinist" political parties that are "negative towards Islam and ungrateful", while at the same time attempting to reassure non-Muslims that the PAS state government in the two states it rules seeks to protect their rights.
PAS leaders have been accused of accepting money from Umno, with Hadi's own son-in-law revealing that there was a "dedak cartel" within the party which received money in exchange for political support. Dedak, Malay for animal feed, is a term popularised by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad referring to bribes.
Several Umno leaders have also been slapped with corruption charges, including former president Najib Razak and current president Zahid Hamidi.
It is the first time the PAS muktamar is being held in Pahang, in a strong signal of its close ties with former foe Umno, which controls the state assembly.
Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan attended the congress, and hugged PAS party leaders on stage.
Other Umno leaders present included vice-president Khaled Nordin, youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki and former Perlis menteri besar Shahidan Kassim.
Leaders from Barisan Nasional (BN) ally Malaysian Indian Congress were also present.
Last year, Umno's Datuk Seri Zahid attended the PAS muktamar, or conference.
Delegates are expected to debate and approve a new policy to formalise PAS' collaboration with former foe Umno, called "ta'awun siyasi" or political collaboration.
Biennial party polls were also being held on Friday with Datuk Seri Hadi's loyalists sweeping the top posts.
Hadi and his deputy, Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, have retained their posts uncontested.
The chief and deputy of the powerful clergy wing also won uncontested, as well as the youth wing chief.
"That (the lack of competition) is a sign of calm in the party. And there are no video activities in PAS," Hadi told a news conference, in a sly reference to the gay sex video scandal plaguing Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
He denied that there were pockets of opposition within PAS towards working with Umno.
"To make it easier for us, those who oppose, can leave the party and set up their own. They have already left the party and created Amanah," he said, adding that all members have accepted the idea of cooperating with Umno.
Some older leaders, however, are still doubtful of working with Umno.
Kelantan PAS ulama speaker Ishak Hassan said many grassroots members in Kelantan oppose the move due to Umno's past treatment of Kelantan when it was in power, such as denying it oil royalties.
"On the cooperation with Umno, I agree but we have to be careful. Umno has betrayed PAS in Kelantan before," Mr Ishak was quoted as saying.
Hadi said: "Being cautious is normal. In PAS, there is still Umno-phobia, but in Umno, there is also PAS-phobia. But Muslims with morals must prioritise peace and efforts to unite the ummah (community) before your own emotions."
PAS contested against Tun Dr Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan and BN coalitions in the last general election, splitting the votes three ways.
Following BN's stunning defeat, the Islamist party entered into an alliance with Umno, and the two have scored several victories in by-elections this year.