by Looi Sue-Chern
The Malaysian Insider
20 June 2015
In the final part of our interview with Mohamad Sabu, one of PAS’s most popular leaders, he tells The Malaysian Insider that he is worried with the thinking among leaders in the Islamist party, warning it can be dangerous for the country.
PAS has begun to follow a “dangerous” trend where the focus is on punishing those who disagree with Islamic leadership, one of the party’s ousted “progressives”, Mohamad Sabu said.
The former deputy president, popularly known as Mat Sabu, who lost in recent party elections said this tendency in the practice of Islam today had started in the Middle East, and PAS has jumped on the bandwagon of “takfiri” (Muslims accusing other Muslims of apostasy) when faced with those who disagreed with them.
“You disagree with us, then you are not with us. You are an infidel, a liberal, a ‘munafiq’ (a hypocrite who outwardly practises Islam while inwardly concealing his disbelief).
“This is happening in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, Algeria and Pakistan. It is very dangerous and students, who studied in the Middle East, have brought it home with them,” he said in an interview with The Malaysian Insider.
Mat Sabu also drew out larger implications for Malaysia if this way of thinking continued.
“What is going on is dangerous for the party and in the future, it will be dangerous for the country too.
“The infighting in the Middle East may even take longer than 20 or 30 years to end. In Malaysia, it has not yet begun but the seeds have been planted and the flowers will soon bloom,” he said.
It has resulted in some PAS leaders and members becoming more focused on whether a person was on their side, rather than whether he or she had a good track record in serving the party, Mat Sabu added.
Referring to himself, he said it therefore did not matter that he had been imprisoned twice under the Internal Security Act, and had been in and out of police stations in the fight for PAS’s struggles and issues affecting Malaysians.
“What they talked about was whether Abang Mat was on their side or not. It mattered not to them if you had worked tirelessly for the party and only went home a few days in a month.
“They looked at Hanipa and they labelled him a liberal and said he must be rejected. Never mind how well he debates in the Dewan Rakyat or in the court, defending people. His work had no value since he was labelled a liberal,” Mat Sabu said, referring to lawyer Mohamed Hanipa Maidin (pic, left), who failed to defend his post in the central committee.
“This is the school of thought in the Islamic world today… and PAS is facing this disease,” Mohamad said.
He and Hanipa are among former party leaders dubbed progressives for their more open stance towards non-Muslims and belief that mutual agreements under the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact should be honoured.
They had also been critical of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s leadership, as Hadi had defied decisions by the Pakatan Rakyat’s collective leadership on some issues.
Mat Sabu, a PAS member of 37 years and a three-term MP under the party’s ticket, said it broke his heart to see PAS take this change in direction, although he would not say that he would quit the party.
“Of course I am crushed. This is my party. It is my blood… so much effort had been put into the party. It is not easy to just leave the party, although these are strange times.”
The end of PR was brought about by a motion adopted at PAS’s annual general assembly earlier this month, which resolved to cut ties with DAP with whom Hadi and other conservative leaders had been fighting with.
There is now the possibility of the ousted PAS progressives forming their own party, but Mat Sabu said it was still to early to say more on this idea.
“We have to talk more on whether we will need a new vehicle or we can find a way to rehabilitate PAS members… overhaul everything.
“Whatever it is, the party must have an Islamic base because only then can we appeal to Muslims for support,” he said, adding that a party with an Islamic foundation would not put off non-Muslims.
This was because PAS had successfully captured non-Muslim support with the “PAS for All” slogan used in the 2013 general election. Its concept of a welfare state had also received support from non-Muslims, Mohamad said.
“PAS was accepted by the Chinese. We even saw the Chinese wearing shirts with the PAS logo at the time.
“Islam is not a problem. The problem is the thinking of the (PAS) leaders,” he said.
Should a new party be formed by leaders like him who were booted out of the PAS leadership, Mat Sabu said it would continue with the ideals that the Islamist party has now abandoned.
These would be to champion values like multiracial harmony, good governance and clean government.
“Look at the MPs in Parliament. Those who talk about corruption, good governance and values are people like (Parit Buntar MP) Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, (Shah Alam MP) Khalid Samad, (Sepang MP), Hanipa and others like them,” he said.
All these names had also lost in the party elections.
“Good governance, fighting corruption, being punctual, keeping our cities clean are all Islamic. But the so-called ulamas (clerics) appear to be weak in addressing such matters.
“Those values and practices are not the priority for PAS leaders now. All that reflects on their thinking,” he said. – June 20, 2015.