Prime Minister Najib Razak and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang joined hands across the political divide yesterday in a show of solidarity not just for the Rohingyas suffering in Myanmar, but between Malaysia's two largest Malay Muslim parties.
Close to 10,000 people were gathered at the Titiwangsa Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to protest against what the Malaysian government has described as "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
They consisted of leaders and members of the ruling Umno party and opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), as well as Muslim Rohingya refugees, who sat and stood side by side chanting "Allahu akbar", meaning "God is Great".
Among other top ranking Umno leaders present were deputy president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, while PAS had its deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and Youth chief Nik Mohammad Abduh.
Umno president Datuk Seri Najib said he was there despite Myanmar's warning that his presence would be considered interference in its domestic affairs, as it was incumbent on him as a Muslim to pursue the issue.
"That is why Umno and PAS are here in the same venue," he told the crowd.
"This Rohingya issue is an insult to Islam. Our patience is being challenged." PAS president Abdul Hadi said Malaysia should join other states to intervene against the "uncivilised" way the Rohingyas have been treated.
In Yangon, about 100 people including Buddhist monks held a counter-protest against Malaysia, with some holding placards showing Mr Najib's face with an "X" marked across it.
In Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Mr Najib and Mr Abdul Hadi wore black outfits and had red "Save Rohingya" scarves around their necks.
This was not the first time that Mr Najib has shared the same public stage as Mr Abdul Hadi, wearing similar outfits.
In December last year, both were in pink Malay bajus as they officiated at a regional meeting for graduates of Egypt's Al-Azhar University. Like yesterday, they also sat side by side at that function.
The unusual amity between the leader of the ruling party and the chief of a major opposition party was meant to project to their members the informal coming together of the Malay-Muslim parties, a signal that plays well among rural Malays who form the bulk of the support for both Umno and PAS.
With the next general election expected sometime next year, the two parties know that they could do well by working together, but not formalising an alliance.
Already, Umno and PAS have cooperated by pushing forward a Bill in Parliament to enhance controversial Islamic criminal laws, despite stiff opposition from non-Muslim lawmakers.
Mr Najib told Umno at its assembly last week that the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) now led the opposition, and would dismantle pro-Malay and Islamic policies if it came to power.
Umno is hoping that PAS will run in many seats in the coming polls to create three-cornered fights that will benefit the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition led by Umno.
The other opposition parties have raised doubts about the government's sincerity in holding the Rohingya rally, implying that it was done merely for political reasons.
Former premier Mahathir Mohamad, now an opposition figure, said yesterday that governments should take action, not organise protests.
"If we become the government, my proposal would be to break off diplomatic relations to show our displeasure towards how the Rohingyas are treated. When he (Najib) is prime minister, he goes to a demonstration. Whom is he demonstrating to?" he told a press conference.