Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) kicked off its annual assembly yesterday by trumpeting Muslim unity over integrity, as it shared the stage with former foe Umno whose leaders face corruption trials.
Party president Hadi Awang said in his opening speech that PAS must prioritise electing leaders who are Muslim over those with integrity.
"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 some 3,000 delegates and observers.
PAS leaders have been accused of accepting Umno money, with Datuk Seri 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" is a Malay euphemism for bribes.
Several Umno leaders are also facing corruption charges, including Malaysia's former prime minister Najib Razak and current party president Zahid Hamidi.
This is the first time the PAS assembly is held in Pahang, in a strong signal of the party's close ties with Umno, which controls the state assembly.
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan attended, hugging PAS leaders on stage. Other leaders from the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition who were present included Umno vice-president Khaled Nordin, youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, former Perlis menteri besar Shahidan Kassim and Malaysian Indian Congress president S.A. Vigneswaran.
This is the second time Umno has attended a PAS assembly. Datuk Seri Zahid was at last year's event.
Mr Alias Hamid, a PAS delegate from Terengganu, said it was natural for Mr Hadi to say that a leader who was Muslim trumped one with integrity. "We, as Muslims, must put religion first. God willing if you put Islam first, you will be safe because you will fear Allah and won't lie or take bribes," he said.
Muktamar delegates are expected to debate and approve a policy to formalise PAS' collaboration with Umno, dubbed ta'awun siyasi or political collaboration.
Biennial party polls were also held yesterday, with Hadi loyalists sweeping the top posts.
The party president and his deputy, Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, have already retained their posts uncontested.
The chief and deputy of the powerful clergy wing also won their posts uncontested, along with the youth wing chief and three vice-presidents.
"That (the lack of competition) is a sign of calm in the party. And there are no video activities in PAS," Mr Hadi said, in a clear reference to the gay sex video scandal plaguing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, a major component of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Mr Hadi denied that there were pockets of opposition within PAS on 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, referring to Parti Amanah Negara, a moderate Islamic splinter party formed by disaffected PAS members.
Some older PAS leaders remain doubtful over working with Umno.
Kelantan PAS ulama speaker Ishak Hassan said many grassroots members in the state oppose the move due to Umno's past treatment of Kelantan when it was in power, such as denying it oil royalties.
Mr Hadi responded: "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 before your own emotions."
PAS stood against the PH and BN coalitions in the last general election, splitting the vote three-ways.
Following BN's stunning defeat in the polls last year, the Islamist party entered into an alliance with Umno to not run against each other, and both have since won a number of by-elections this year.