Umno-PAS alliance is ‘good’ for Malaysians!

Zahid and Najib are two leaders who have been accused of massive corruption and if their cases are speeded up and they are found guilty, then PAS and Umno will be shouldering what the Malays called ‘memikul biawak hidup’.

Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi, Sin Chew Daily

I have been asked by Sin Chew to comment on the recent signing of the alliance between Umno-PAS and what it means for Malaysians and the challenges to Pakatan Harapan. I am going to first of all argue that this alliance is very good for Malaysians and for the PH. Then, I am going to outline what Malaysians must do to deal with this alliance for the next 3 and a half years.

The Umno-PAS alliance is good simply because these two parties have been sleeping together outside of wedlock for several years already and now they have decided to make themselves an ‘honest’ and ‘halal’ union. No surprise there. Why should Malaysians be frightened? These two have been using the same race and religion strategy for so long. It is doubtful that they would change their strategies as they have now a huge willing audience in the well to do middle class and the poor kampong folks. What Malaysians should fear is their own ignorance and inability to think outside the box in dealing with this race and religious cards even though it has been used for decades. I will suggest how Malaysians should deal with this in a more effective way than the present. So, Umno-PAS alliance is a good thing because it is the ‘devil you know’. Anyway, Malaysia practices a democratic system and if the two parties want to ink an agreement, they are within their rights to do so.

Secondly, the Umno-PAS alliance has one single weak flaw; the reinstallation of Zahid Hamidi and Najib Tun Razak as the two main leaders. Tok Mat and Khairy now plays third and fourth fiddles. Zahid and Najib are two leaders who have been accused of massive corruption and if their cases are speeded up and they are found guilty, then PAS and Umno will be shouldering what the Malays called ‘memikul biawak hidup’. If PAS had inked the agreement with Tok Mat and Khairy, it would have been a more credible alliance. As it is now, the huge hole in the wall can crumble in less than a year or worse, approaching a general election.

Thirdly, the Umno-PAS alliance featuring Najib and Zahid is a big setback for PPBM to take center stage as the dominant Malay political party. PPBM was set last year to totally destroy Umno and take in defectors into its fold to beef up its pathetic numbers. At that time Umno was extremely weak and directionless with a knock-out punch but now with PAS giving it the kiss of life, it has resurrected to be a potent force. With Najib and Zahid at the helm, Umno has counter attacked by suing several MPs for jumping. PPBM’s plan to be the big brother has dashed with Umno-PAS becoming a potent dragon that can even engulf PPBM’s small following. PPBM has no history, no ideology and no grass roots as opposed to the Umno-PAS entity. The realignment of political forces are now in a shambles and needs to be rethought.

How should peace loving Malaysians deal with the coming storm of race and religious issues? There are three important strategies that I can outline. The first is to tell DAP to refrain from making any more statements about the Malays and Islam. Even the Malays in DAP should also be advised total restraint. For my analysis, DAP is the single most important fuel for the narrative of race and religious hatred used by Umno-PAS. If, one day, DAP decides to disband and filter into two Malay based parties, Umno-PAS would be totally devastated as their favorite, bogie-man, punching bag and ‘hantu’ of the Malays is gone. Umno-PAS would have to create a new ‘hantu’ for the Malays and it is most difficult to demonized two Malay majority parties like PKR and Amanah. I know that DAP must keep up their tough nut attitude to please their main non-Malay support base but their statements are wonderful bullets for Umno-PAS. The recent statement by Lim Kit Siang to remind PH not to out-Malay and out-Islam Umno-PAS is exactly the salvo that Umno-PAS needs to feed their narrative that DAP controls the Malays in PH. The DAP supporters and the DAP leadership must understand this single strategy of counter offensive. Only doing the unexpected would throw the other off-balance.

Secondly, peace loving non-Malays should never…never ever…make any public statement on Islam or the Malay issues without forging a joint statement with multi-racial civil society and moderate thinking Malays. Although the moderate Malay groups are small in numbers but this would create the statement as a Malaysian concern and not one ethnic fight. In the Jawi issue I had advised Dong Zong not to issue any statement without a joint declaration with some Malay civil society personalities but the Chinese education group went along and everything exploded in its face. Malaysians who are peace loving must move together and avoid being isolated by the predator party.

Thirdly is the practice of compassion. When there are issues of disasters and financial crisis that hits the Malay communities, Malaysians must come out in force to help. I had asked the non-Malays to help the predicament of Utusan and Bernama workers but it was not taken up. Had the clarion for help been answered, it would have changed the political landscape and narrative of Umno-PAS. Funds can be set up to help religious schools and Malay students in the thousands by non-Malay corporates and this would definitely throw a huge spanner in the Umno-PAS race and religious rhetoric.

The fourth and by far the most important suggestion I have is one that has been totally ignored time and again by the PH government. I had called for a RM100 million yearly budget to retrain 1500 religious scholars overseas on subjects other than Islam. These 1500 ustazs must be asked to take Master courses in Anthropology, Mass Communication, Comparative Religion, Arts, Architecture, Philosophy, Western History and even World Theology. They must be sent to far off places inhabited by a small minority of Muslims which forces them to feel like a minority and become more sensitive to the needs of non-Muslims. Only the ustazs can change the conservative and extremist mindsets of the Malays. We could also send academics with their first two degrees not in Islam to take up PhDs in Islamic studies again in western countries where there is an extreme minority of Muslims. When these people return after one year or three years, they must be sent to all the mosques as teachers of the new moderate Islam. This is the only formula for change. Nothing else can. It only costs us money of one or two billion ringgit but if it were ignored, the cost would be an escalating extremist Islam as a legacy for our children, their children and their children’s children.

This is a good time for Malaysians to reflect that what they have done in dealing with the race and religious rhetoric encouraged by irresponsible political parties. Malaysians must think outside the box and change the chess boards. This communal issue is not as difficult as it seems but it will be the most difficult problem if Malaysians fail to act creatively and in unison. The choice…actually…is ours, not theirs.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at UCSI University.)