Marrying when it’s convenient

The excitement of seeing the possibility of regaining many crucial seats – including states lost in the last general election – if they worked together was simply overwhelming.

Wong Chun Wai, The Star

It  was a marriage doomed from the start. Of course, the flirting was exciting and both sides enjoyed this phase of the courting. Then, they discussed marriage.

In fact, Umno and PAS announced two weeks ago that they had formalised political ties and proudly proclaimed that they were now “married” after a three-hour meeting between leaders of both parties.

“We ‘exchanged rings’ in Sungai Kandis, ‘engaged’ in Seri Setia. Then, we decided to get ‘married’ – this is the official ceremony. And now, we are sitting on the dais,” Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan proudly declared.

The Sungai Kandis by-election in August last year put in motion the alliance between the two parties after the 14th General Election. PAS made way for Umno to contest, although the Umno candidate lost to Pakatan Harapan.

“We are married,” a beaming Mohamad said after meeting PAS leaders led by their deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

But the wedding of the year, between Umno and PAS, has become a non-event. Invitation cards don’t need to be sent out.

On Monday, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said such a union would be incestuous, likening both parties as siblings.

Correction: PAS was married to Barisan Nasional for five years from 1974 and with Barisan Alternatif (which included PKR and DAP) from 1999 till 2004. PAS is a serial divorcee with a bad record of staying in a marriage.

To put it crudely, PAS slept with practically everyone including those it had branded “kafir” (infidels) and this even included Umno at one point. But now, Hadi apparently has amnesia, and is proclaiming Umno a brother. His argument is that a marriage (with Umno) will be incestuous, though flirting is permitted.

This rationale is no different from DAP’s, which used to justify the use of hudud, saying the amputation of hands shouldn’t be a concern for non-Muslims since only “the corrupt in Barisan” need to worry. Want proof? Just watch the related videos on YouTube.

DAP even organised study trips to Kelantan to show what an exemplary state it is, although most of us feel that Kelantan is hardly a shining example of how a state should be run. PAS information chief Nasrud­din Hassan Tantawi, the firebrand who advocates the ban of Valentine’s Day and concerts, thinks it’s the best place to live and retire in Malaysia.

In fact, Hadi even praised DAP then, saying the latter stood by the Islamist party when the Kelantan government crumbled in 1978. DAP, he noted, defended PAS when the Kelantan government fell to Barisan, “which caused chaos within the state.” He reportedly said Barisan, which was working with PAS then, did nothing to help them but “only DAP defended us at the time, and we are grateful to them”.

There are several reasons why PAS has suddenly decided to take a few steps back. The excitement of seeing the possibility of regaining many crucial seats – including states lost in the last general election – if they worked together was simply overwhelming.

Calling for Muslim unity, they seem prepared to ignore the rest of Malaysians – the non-Muslims who have abandoned them anyway.

Adding to the delusion, they forget that Sabahans and Sarawakians are not supporters of the politics of race or religion. In fact, they despise political personalities of this sort.

While Malaysians may have expressed disappointment in, among other things, the performances of some PH ministers and mentris besar, the inability to fulfil many of the election promises and the rising cost of living, any retrogressive steps, such as abandoning a multi-racial government, seems alarming, to say the least.

Let’s look at the Rantau state by-election where Mohamad Has­san is contesting – the electorate has a high Chinese and Indian presence although it has a 54% Malay electorate. The Chinese make up 19% and Indians 27%, with the other races making up the remainder.

Surely Mohamad can’t be entering the campaign shouting the Malay-Muslim rhetoric and ignoring the Chinese and Indians, the people who voted for him loyally in the past. And ironically, he is contesting against an Indian candidate from PH. All this talk of Umno-PAS must be shelved, at least, for now, until they get excited again with the seemingly amorous affair.

But PAS’ biggest problem is Hadi’s inconsistency, and this has led to rational and moderate Malaysians questioning his integrity and principles, or the lack of it. What’s disturbing is, he keeps using religion to justify his ever-changing stand for the sake of political expediency.

Only 30 years ago, he issued the proclamation known widely as Amanat Haji Hadi (the dictum of Haji Hadi), where he labelled Muslims who supported Umno and Barisan as kafir or infidels, and it disastrously led to Umno and PAS members attending prayers in different mosques. He criticised the Federal Constitu­tion and the country’s laws as uncivilised legislation created by colonists and infidels, and declared that one did not have to be a Jew, Christian, Buddhist or Hindu to be deemed an infidel; anyone who believed in the separation of politics and Islam was to be labelled an infidel.

In January, Hadi reportedly delivered a warning to Muslims to place their trust in Muslim leaders, regardless of their wickedness, claiming that non-believers would end up in hell if led by non-Muslims. The PAS president reportedly wrote a lengthy article recently stressing the importance of religion in keeping the law and the need for Islam to reign supreme in governing the country.

“If the one leading is a Muslim, even if he were to be cruel, at least (others) can become cattle herders,” the Marang MP wrote.

“But if the one who leads is a non-Muslim even if he were to be the kindest, (others) can work however they wish (but) without any limits of what is ‘halal’ and ‘haram’, they will still end up in hell.”

The impression given – and he seems to want to provide that perception – is that Muslims are in danger of losing control of the federal government, or that non-Muslims are heavily dictating the running of the present government.

And yet on Monday, he said although the federal government was led by PH, the Malay Muslims still hold the biggest political power, as they hold 130 of the 222 parliamentary seats, and “if you add up all the seats won by the Malay Muslims in Parliament, be it from Harapan, or the opposition, Islam is still the majority”.

We can safely say that non-Malays and non-Muslims recognise and accept that the leadership of Malaysia needs to be of Muslim-Malay stock, and no one in his right mind should question the status quo. But no political party should stoke the fires of racial and religious controversy, or worse, create fictional bogeymen at the expense of national unity, which is far more supreme than parochial political ambition.