Umno turning into the old PAS

By Hafiz Noor Shams
June 14, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 14 — If one had opined that PAS was more of a centrist than Umno 10 years ago, nobody would have believed it. It would have been an outrageous opinion. Yet today, it is no longer so foreign a prospect.

The recently concluded PAS internal election is the latest evidence of the party’s march to the centre. That election saw both the promotion of the so-called professional group to the leadership of the party and the adoption of a more realistic stance with regards to the Islamic state agenda.

The participation of PAS within Pakatan Rakyat has a lot to do with the reconfiguration of the party towards the political centre. While the criticism of ideological difference against the coalition as a whole remains valid, the alliance itself is the great engine that is pulling all of its members to a middle ground. That middle ground is proving to be the Malaysian centre.

This is should be contrasted with trends within Barisan Nasional, or really, just Umno.

Regardless of the sincerity of the accusation, Umno and its allies insist that PAS is committing a political betrayal. They claim PAS is abandoning the Islamic state ideal and ejecting the ulama from party leadership. Rather than acknowledging the developments as simply a move to the centre, they are more comfortable accusing PAS of kowtowing to DAP.

Betrayal or not, as with any move to the centre, those on the fringes will have less hold on the party. That will fuel some discontent.

Umno-owned Malay daily Utusan Malaysia wants Umno to appease the fringes. Assistant chief editor of Utusan Malaysia Zaini Hassan has gone as far as suggesting that Umno should have its own ulama wing, perhaps thinking that particular manoeuvre could outflank PAS.

He forgets that times are changed.

In the past, the Islamisation race between Umno and PAS always ended up with PAS being the loser. PAS did not budge even as Umno encroached on the traditional domain of the former. That allowed Umno to win centrist votes and gain some voters who could have voted for PAS.

That little trick might not work again after the latest PAS election.

With PAS slowly nudging towards the centre and Umno to the opposite direction, the Islamisation game has only one participant, and that is Umno. With enough momentum powering both sides, Umno might find itself taking the relatively more extreme position compared to PAS. This means Umno is at risk of becoming the loser this time around.

If both parties stay on their course, Umno will turn into the conservative party that PAS was. Meanwhile, PAS the centrist should be very happy with that.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 11:21 am

    IF PAS is more ‘centrist’, its because they have not forgotten what it means to be Malay. You may actually say they re-discovered what Malay means. People forget that Islam arrived in this shores nearly over 900 years ago and yet the Malays until Mahathir came along, practised a form of Islam whose appearance does not even look like anything from the Arab states.

    The Malays were open people, that accepted people and ideas from everywhere, before and after Islam came. What PAS is doing is consistent with who the Malays are, in fact is what Malays are who don’t get trapped into pre-conceived ideas of what works for them, even a religion.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 11:56 am

    UMNO’s main strength in this multi racial political polity (in days of good ole days of Tunku’s Alliance) was being centrist (though through a self defeating communal parties set up) and cater for multiracial welfare .

    When Dr Mahathir took over reins the party tried to out-Islamise PAS for exclusively Muslim/Malay vote bank.

    That was first mistake as it is allowing its political opponent to define on what ground/terrain to engage. Religion is PAS’s terrain. In neither piety thumping or Islamic vocabulary can UMNO beat PAS’s ulamas! This is not to forget UMNO’s capitalist base as well as its need to manage a Constitution/set of laws that are hybrid (both Islamic & secular) which invariably pose contradictions for PAS to exploit and ridicule.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 12:00 pm

    Over time (22 yrs of Mahathir’s Islamisation) Islamists of all persuasions gravitate around government bureaucracy/civil service; outside that all kinds of Islamist NGOs who identify their vested interests with the ruling party under its Islamic credentials. UMNO just Cannot De-Escalate that which it has escalated (tks to TDM) (even if it wants to) so it is drawn deeper and deeper into religious extremist right of PAS’s original space leaving its own moderate and middle centrist space (used to be its main strength) vacant, a vacuum for PAS (in collaboration with moderate PKR/DAP) to subsequently fill and sequester the multi-racial and inclusive national vote. Hence the paradox of PAS & UMNO switching places – more for PAS’s benefit than any at all for UMNO!

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 12:08 pm

    Summarising: In UMNO vs PAS UMNO makes strategic mistake of (1) ceding the multiracial territory in which it had advantage (2) to engage in a fight in PAS’s religious territory that PAS has natural advantage and then getting entangled/enmeshed/bogged down in enemy’s territory fighting and improvising piecemeal with weak and ineffectual weapons of sex innuendoes videos and sodomy that civilized politics eschews (3) now allow enemy PAS to take over its own territory to forage on its multiracial assets. IN terms of strategy ala Sun Tzu Art of War, PAS (based on its long term strategic approach) will score better than UMNO which ceded its advantage to fight and get pinned down in disadvantaged territory. Just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions as PAS grasping this flexibly modifies tactics ie temporarily shelves its theocratic agenda to seize the middle ground assets necessary or victory in order then to re-instate its Islamic state!

  5. #5 by donng55 on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 12:11 pm

    // …The participation of PAS within Pakatan Rakyat has a lot to do with the reconfiguration of the party towards the political centre. While the criticism of ideological difference against the coalition as a whole remains valid, the alliance itself is the great engine that is pulling all of its members to a middle ground. That middle ground is proving to be the Malaysian centre. …//

    The recent elevation of “professionals” and “moderates” in PAS and its subsequent tilting toward the political centre (as per the writer’s view point), however, can be quickly reversed as we know it.

    As such, I can’t help but continue to be of the view that Islamization is PAS’ greatest idée fixe, and that PAS’ alliance with DAP is but a matrimonium ad morganaticam, a morganatic marriage with a morning gift – with Penang chief ministership as the gift.

    So you ask, “What can PAS do to gain non-Malays’ confidence, trust, and votes?”

    My answer to that is: Two things must happen first before we are prepared to forge our true camaraderie with PAS.

    ONE. There exists a very significant number of moderate Malays/scholars in our society who dare to stick their neck out to contradict, criticize, silence, and go against PAS’ radical Islamic views/practises/policies in a timely manner.

    TWO. PAS tandard-bearers issue a Shermanesque statement to the effect that Islamization is a thing of its past and it is no longer PAS’ greatest idée fixe.

  6. #6 by dcasey on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 12:19 pm

    The issue is no longer which party is centrist and which is more extreme. Heck the issue today is not even religion or race, The writer is spot on when he quoted “He forgets that times are changed.” Today the rakyat of all races are only concerned with bread and butter issues, and therefore a more relevant issue crops up i.e. the ordinary man on the street are concerned about a govt who can walk the talk and deliver to the rakyat fairness, transparency, responsibility etc. Gone are the days when umnoputras and its perkosa lapdogs can still harp on issues of race, religion and the ketuanan ideology so as to keep on using the crutches. In fact this trick is now giving the true Malays a bad name.

    For doing so, Umno does face the risk of becoming the loser this time around.

  7. #7 by k1980 on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 1:46 pm

    Mat Sabu needs to be extra careful. One fine day, one of his assistants might be bribed to do a saifool and rush off to make a police report that mat sabu’s dna had been deposited in his an#s for the past 2 days. Then we will have Sod 3

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 - 2:22 pm

    ‘Umno turning into the old PAS’.

    It is called ‘Transformation’.

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