by Looi Sue-Chern
The Malaysian Insider
19 July 2015
PAS MP Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa made the hardest decision of his life when he launched the New Hope Movement (GHB) with other progressive leaders from the party earlier this week.
The turning point in his political life is likely to see him leave the Islamist party and become a founding member of a new political organisation with his “purged” colleagues.
“It is the most difficult decision of my life. I was born and bred in the politics of PAS. My mother was pregnant with me when my father campaigned in Perlis in 1964.
“When I was born on October 25 that year, my father had to find a name that reflected the challenges he went through. So he named me Mujahid, which means a fighter who doesn’t give up.
“I have to live up to my name with the difficulties I face. It has made me who I am,” the 50-year-old told The Malaysian Insider.
Mujahid and other progressive PAS leaders were ousted by the conservative ulama faction in the party elections last month.
The purge, he said, made them realise that the party was not living up to Islamic principles and had adopted a rigid understanding of the religion, pushing those who wanted to know Islam away.
“Today in the world, Islam is regarded as a terrorist, backward and conservative religion, like what the Isis (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq) is doing.
“It is a responsibility for us to correct the perception and reality. That is what we are trying to do with the new hope,” he said, referring to the new party he and his progressive colleagues are mulling.
It is their hope the new party would be an alternative Islamic party to PAS and subsequently lead to a new opposition coalition to replace Pakatan Rakyat, which collapsed after PAS severed ties with DAP at the muktamar last month.
Mujahid said they wanted to present a fresh image of Islam through the new party to show that it is a religion of peace, compassion and mercy, and one that celebrated diversity.
“It is a big crusade, not about a group of leaders who lost their positions.
“If you ask whether I will choose the party or save Islam, then I choose to save Islam. Political parties come and go but Islam will remain.”
Mujahid said his family were behind him as they, too, saw that PAS had changed.
“When our father was still around, he told my brothers and sisters to always support me because I was the only one who followed him into politics. One of my older sisters joined the PAS women’s wing… of course, she was also ousted in the muktamar.
“That is the best thing… to have family behind you, people who support you and trust you. My siblings believe their little brother won’t do stupid things,” he said of his 10 older brothers and sisters.
Mujahid’s late father Yusof Abdullah, who was better known as Yusof Rawa, was a former deputy minister, former ambassador to Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran, former PAS president and the party’s first spiritual leader.
Mujahid joined PAS in 1992 after returning to Penang from Egypt. He then moved to Malacca, where he became a lecturer and soon developed a serious interest in the party.
He left academia to be a full-time politician in 1999, contesting the Jasin parliamentary seat. He lost again in the 2004 general election when he stood in the Tasek Gelugor parliamentary seat.
But he worked his way up party ranks. He said the only help his father gave him was advice – the only way to go up was to prove himself, to never ask the party for anything, and to leave it to God’s will.
Mujahid soon made it to the PAS Youth national committee before making the PAS central working committee in 2005 and was tasked with handling the national unity bureau.
He set up the non-Muslim PAS Supporters’ Congress and went on to promote the party and encourage better understanding of Islam in a multiracial nation.
He also coined the party’s 2013 general election slogan “PAS for All”, which softened the Islamist party’s hard-line image and gained the support of non-Muslim voters.
Mujahid is also known for his interfaith work, especially his success in engaging with the church and the Christians even when there were tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims over the “Allah” issue.
“The party benefited from such efforts but eventually, PAS stopped moving in the right direction.
“I tried to encourage the practice of engaging other faiths in dialogues and to have mutual respect among all religions but to the party, it was as if those were strange ideas.
“There was not much support and there was talk that we had become part of some Christian agenda, that we were befriending the enemies of Allah… there were all these conspiracy theories.
“It made my work hard but I pushed on and because of that I was labelled a liberal, a pro-Christian.”
Mujahid said he would not have come to the drastic decision of spearheading GHB if there were not a team of like-minded PAS leaders and grassroots members who did not like what PAS had become.
Their roadshows around the country, he said, were being discussed among PAS members and some asked how even former party deputy president Mohamad Sabu could be kicked out after the many sacrifices he had made.
“In Johor, 80% of the grassroots are with us because they don’t like the situation. The PAS Supporters’ Congress, which is my brainchild, will come over to us. Many more will come.”
Amid these developments, Mujahid said life went on as usual in his Parit Buntar constituency, where the electorate cared more whether he could make time for them.
“They don’t care much about what was going on as long as they see you as a good person and a good elected rep who can attend to them. They will only be concerned and upset when they invite you for buka puasa or a kenduri and you don’t show up.”
Like the other progressive leaders, Mujahid has been busy speaking to people around the country about the New Hope Movement and has not been able to hold any interfaith events lately.
He said after he lost his position in the party leadership, Penang Bishop Sebastian Francis told him in a text message that he would pray for him and he must move on.
“The relationship (between us) is still on,” he said, promising that his interfaith work would continue and should be easier in the new party they were mooting with his track record with communities of different faiths. – July 19, 2015.