Pakatan Harapan’s Islamic Discourse is UMNO’s except it’s hypocritical


August 10, 2018

Pakatan Harapan’s  Islamic Discourse is UMNO’s except it’s hypocritical

by S Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mujahid Rawa

Mujahid Al-Rawa: What value system are you talking about? One worse than UMNO’s? One that limits the minds of Malay Muslims with your religious dogma which you inherited from your previous affiliation  with PAS. –Din Merican

“Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens. It’s important to stand in the way of such a mentality, to deny it from continuing its mission to murder the souls of its people, killing them deep within while they are still alive and breathing.”

– Raif Badawi, 1000 Lashes, Because I Say What I Think

COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan – either by design, incompetence or maybe just a lack of imagination – is making the Islamic discourse in this country even more toxic than it already is.

Take the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), for instance. This is a religious bureaucracy plugged into every aspect of government. Why hasn’t there been any sustained effort by this so-called religious authority to combat corruption, racism and bigotry? Isn’t this the kind of Islamic moral police that Harapan alluded to when it comes to the religion of the state?

Image result for Stop your rambling, DPM Wan Azizah

DPM Dr. Wan Azizah–Are you for real, OR just a seat warmer or stand-in?

The pointless op-ed piece about Women, Family and Community Development Minister Dr Wan Aziziah Wan Ismail, penned by her deputy Hannah Yeoh and panned by Latheefa Koya, is an example of how the political elite attempt to cloud issues that they do not want to deal with.

In past articles, I have written about the tremendous pressure Muslim political operatives are under. I get it, I really do.

It should tell you something about mainstream Harapan dogma when people do not question why Latheefa’s position on the issue of child marriage, for example, is not defended, while the cautious – and I am being charitable here – position of the Deputy Prime Minister is embraced by the political elite who told us before the election that they would defend the secular position in this so-called Islamic state.

The removal of the photos of LGBTQ activists, who by the way were also part of the struggle against the UMNO regime, not only demonstrates the pettiness of the religious bigots in Harapan, but also the hypocrisy of their actions. How many Harapan political operatives met with activists (who were part of the LGBTQ discourse) as part of a grassroots rejection of UMNO?

De facto Religious Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s double speak of the state protecting these people from a society that rejects them hides the fact that the bigots within Harapan believe that the more disenfranchised you are, the less political cost you incur.

Sooner or later, everyone becomes disenfranchised except the political and religious elites. Keep up the good work Charles Santiago and anyone else who public ally opposes these religious imperatives.

And no Mujahid, I do not want you to arrest them. I want you to keep your mouth shut about them, and instead create a counter-narrative that Harapan’s Islam is about promoting a first class education for your brethren, weeding out corruption in the political and religious class, ensuring the healthcare system is one of the best in the region, and ensuring a plurality of Islamic voices, so young people do not join extremist groups that pose a danger to the citizens of this country.

I have asked this question many times before, but how many times have past UMNO administrations made unilateral decisions which went against the perceived Islamic groupthink to garner votes from non-Muslims? How many times has the UMNO regime retreated from extreme positions to appease their BN non-Malay/Muslim partners?

Did they suffer – before May 9, 2018 – from a Muslim backlash? No, they didn’t. Why? because the majority of Muslims are content to follow their leaders instead of setting the Islamic agenda.

My last article was more about the hypocrisy of the opposition then any real political influence by a foreign power. Anyway, all of this is just a smokescreen. Three important issues have cropped up which point to the theoretic agenda of the Harapan state – far more important than a bumbling group from DC mucking about our country.

Syariah compliance

The first is the syariah-compliant guidelines for the private sector. What horse manure is this? Apparently, this was in response to the incident where some woman was sacked from her job for not covering up her aurat.

Let me get this straight. We have already had problems in the public sector where religious types dictated how we dress when we interact with the bureaucracy, and now, Harapan wants to impose its “guidelines” on the private sector?

I can just picture it. Private companies who want to do business with the government will suck up to the regime by adopting these guidelines. Some women will advocate for this guideline to be adopted by their companies to ensure that they are not discriminated against, and when there is push back from the company, the religious far right will get involved and Harapan and these bigots will be on the same page.

This is how it starts – innocently enough. Hidden behind a message of fairness is actually the tools for compliance. Guidelines eventually become dogma, and because they think people will not notice – most often they do not – they encroach into our public and private spheres uncontested.

Taxpayer-funded brainwashing

The second is the rebranding of the National Civics Bureau (BTN). I wrote about this here – “Okay, you may say, fine, reform BTN. Sounds simple, right? Has anyone stopped to think why this organisation is needed? Forget about what it is costing taxpayers, but why would there ever need to be a government agency instilling ‘patriotism’ in the civil service and students? Why would the state need to do this except to ensure that people are brainwashed into voting for them?”

People need to question why Harapan is accepting money from kids who break their piggy banks, but has the money to fund what is essentially a state propaganda organ, which would reach into every facet of public, not to mention private life? Do people not see the hypocrisy and danger of an organisation like BTN, revamped or not?

While some Harapan politicians have spoken up on this, the big guns are waxing eloquent about other senior leaders, promoting a third national car, or reminding the rakyat about how bad UMNO’s corruption scandals were. Not to mention the defence that Harapan made these promises not realising they could win has achieved some sort of legitimacy among the faithful.

NSC waffling

The third, and perhaps most important, is the waffling on abolishing the National Security Council Act 2016. All I can say is, you lying sacks of manure.

Before the election, Harapan, the then-opposition, was going on about how this act had effectively turned this democracy into an autocracy. Malay opposition politicians, including our current prime minister, said that this act further eroded the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

In fact, Dr Mahathir Mohamad went so far as to claim that Najib Abdul Razak had given himself the powers of the Agong. Anwar Ibrahim mounted a legal challenge and later withdrew it. This is the most dangerous law this country has.

Now, these duplicitous politicians are claiming: “When it comes to security issues of the country, we will examine all aspects to ensure our country’s safety is not compromised.” Really? What changed? I mean what have you discovered about the security of the country that changed your mind on the utilitarian values of this act?

Did the Najib regime have good cause to table this act? Was the Najib regime aware of things that necessitated such an act that you were (then) ignorant of? Were all criticisms against this act unfounded? Based on ignorance and not fact?

Theocratic agenda

Let me be very clear. I say theocratic agenda because ultimately, religion is the foundation on which unjust laws and propaganda will be used in this country. This is the new virulent strain introduced into the Islamic discourse.

The goodwill Harapan has from its base clouds the discourse in an avalanche of apologia, or more often ad hominems. This adds to the virulence of the discourse, because people lose sight of the real issue and attempt to engage with the straw man arguments. This, of course, only strengthens the Malay far-right position.

The media is concentrating on the plethora of corruption scandals of the past regime, which subsumes other more important long-term issues which have long-lasting effects on the social and political landscape of this country.

Politicians, who before the election were bullish on institutional reform which involved the religious apparatus, now find it profitable to carry on existing narratives that worked so well for BN until the events of May 9. This, of course, is the most dangerous aspect of this new Malaysia.

I get that people do not think it is a big issue. But look back at the history of the country and see the cultural changes that took place. Do you really think corruption has done as much damage as the religious and racial imperatives of the Malay and non-Malay political class?

PREVIOUSLY

IRI ’interference’ poses no clear and present danger to M’sia


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Sabu’s smelling roses compared to those crooked UMNO Ministers


August 5, 2018

Sabu’s smelling roses compared to those crooked UMNO Ministers at Defence Ministry

by Phar Kim Beng@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Mat Sabu as pilot

Dapper looking Mat Sabu

COMMENT | It is odd that former premier Najib Razak has reportedly called Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu a “joker,” who talks about “fish curry” while on board a warship.

Having lost the 14th general election (GE14) badly on May 9 and is now caught in a legal imbroglio over 1MDB and potentially many “mini 1MDBs,” the last thing Najib wants to be doing is to cast the first proverbial stone in a glass house.

Imagine the shards of glass that will come crashing down. In fact, the cracks are already there to see.

The Defence Ministry has been helmed twice by Najib. No one has had that privilege. Not “King Ghaz,” the late Ghazali Shafie, who is known as a foreign policy maestro.

Not even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Seventh Prime Minister, who is known to take the bulls by the horns; as he did when he ripped UMNO and PAS apart in GE-14.

A double stint of Najib, therefore, should have allowed the Defence Ministry to stay clear from any unfortunate controversial issues. Yet, neither tenure did, despite a combined service of some 14 years clocked by Najib.

In fact, when one is in the military barracks, there are jokes galore about the ineptness of Najib but potentially Hishammuddin Hussein too, his cousin, who too donned the mantle of Defence Minister.

Image result for hishamuddin tun hussein at Lahad Datu

The Joker of Lahad Datu–Hishamuddin Hussein

Wasn’t the latter who tweeted that the terrorists in Lahad Datu were clad in “slippers” and “sarongs,” and not to be deemed a threat?

Yet precisely a day later the terrorists went on a rampage, resulting in the first armed invasion of Malaysia since the end of Konfrontasi in 1965. Najib and Hisham, for the lack of better word, appeared to have muck things up when they were at the top of the food chain.

If the joke is on Mat Sabu, so far still a well-regarded Defence Minister, Najib has to be mindful of his legacy both as a Defence and Prime Minister. They reek of indolence (the lack of oversight) and insolence insofar as basic supervision is needed.

Indeed, what the ministry faces now is a litany of issues that remain unresolved. Be it the French submarine Scorpene scandal, or the plea of Shaariibuu Setev that the murder case of his daughter, Altantuya, be reinstated (for a thorough reinvestigation), the echoes from the past seem unrelenting.

Cancer of corruption

If one cares to listen, the cancer of corruption has seeped deepest into the marrows of the ministry. A tile at a military hospital, for example, can allegedly come at a quote of RM13,000, according to reliable sources. Drugs and pharmaceuticals that are supplied to the hospital are allegedly 300 percent more expensive than the regular tender.

If the invoices of these items are compared side by side with other genuine tenders, it would expose the scams and more shenanigans that have manifested in cooking the books.

The best services at such hospitals go the military supremos and top guns, and not the rank and file, who bore the scars of their service.

Indeed, contracts and tenders that are non-competitive have given to the same company over and over. For example, when a tender requires eight items to be scrutinized or supplied, those companies with close political connections to the previous regime continue to win the bids time and again, even though they offer nine of 10 exhibits, thus inflating the cost and breaching the terms of the tender.

Image result for Najib as Minister of Defence

The legacy of Najib appears to be anything but spotless. Thus Mat Sabu is right that Najib has tried to “hit him below the belt” by choosing to raise the issue outside of the Parliament.

If Najib wants to critique the Defence Ministry, an institution that can be redeemed by Amanah, he better find a stronger excuse than hurling abuse at Sabu.


PHAR KIM BENG is a Harvard/Cambridge Commonwealth Fellow, a former Monbusho scholar at the University of Tokyo and visiting scholar at Waseda University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Reimagining Security and Rethinking Economics


April 7, 2018

Reimagining Security and Rethinking Economics

Image result for Reimagining Security and Rethinking Economics
US President Donald Trump signs trade sanctions against China–Making a Non-Issue  into a Global Probem–Trump’s Economics

Economic and financial issues nowadays tend to be discussed in intellectual silos, by specialists who give little mind to security concerns or the interplay between national and international objectives. But sooner or later, economists will realize that global security demands a new approach, just as it did in the interwar period.

PRINCETON – Now that the world is facing a trade war and the growing possibility that the West could find itself in a real war, we would do well to reconsider the lessons of the interwar period.

Many of today’s economic and security disorders are frequently attributed to the 2008 global financial crisis. In addition to exposing the flaws in conventional economic policies, the crisis and its aftermath accelerated the global rebalancing from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific region, while fueling political discontent and the rise of anti-establishment movements in the West.

Image result for Reimagining Security and Rethinking EconomicsDr Buckminster  Fuller is a creative genuis, thinker and builder

Likewise, the Great Depression of the 1930s is usually thought to have produced a seismic shift in economic thinking. According to the conventional narrative, policymakers at the time, having vowed never to repeat the errors that led to the crisis, devised new measures to overcome their economies’ prolonged malaise.

The conceptual and institutional reordering of economics that followed is usually credited to one towering figure: the British economist John Maynard Keynes, who published The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money in 1936. Keynes also orchestrated the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which led to the creation of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the post-war global monetary order.

According to Keynes’s collaborator and biographer Roy Harrod, Keynes enjoyed a god-like presence at the Bretton Woods talks. But some of Keynes’s other contemporaries, notably the British economist Joan Robinson, always doubted that he deserved so much credit for ushering in the new order.

 

After all, the real reason that Keynesian thinking took hold was that its method of calculating aggregate consumption, investment, and savings proved invaluable for American and British military planning during World War II. With consistent national accounting, governments could make better use of resources, divert production from civilian to military purposes, and curtail inflationary pressures, thereby maintaining consumption and staving off civil unrest.

Image result for Sir Roy F.Harrod

The same tools turned out to be just as useful in reorienting the post-war economy toward higher household consumption. But the point is that the revolution in economics, followed by the economic miracles of the post-war era, was a product of wartime calculation, not peacetime reflection. Pressing security concerns and the need to ensure domestic and international stability made policymakers more willing to challenge longstanding economic orthodoxy.

This era holds important lessons for the present. Nowadays, many economists complain that the financial crisis did not prompt a serious rethinking of conventional economics. There are no modern-day equivalents to Keynes. Instead, economic and financial issues tend to be discussed in intellectual silos, by specialists who give little mind to security concerns or the interplay between national and international objectives.

Still, as in the interwar period, there are security threats today that will make rethinking economic assumptions necessary, if not inevitable. Though the financial crisis did not lead to a holistic intellectual reckoning, three broader challenges to the liberal international order since 2016 almost certainly will.

The first challenge is the existential threat of climate change, which will have far-reaching geopolitical consequences, particularly for areas already facing water shortages, and for tropical countries and coastal cities already experiencing the effects of rising sea levels. At the same time, some countries will enjoy temporary gains, owing to longer growing seasons and increased access to minerals, hydrocarbons, and other resources in polar regions.

Ultimately, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will serve the common good. But, without an international mechanism to compensate those most at risk of a warming planet, individual countries will weigh the trade-offs of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions differently.

The second global challenge is artificial intelligence and its foreseeable disruption of labor markets. AI threatens not just employment but also security, because it will render obsolete many technologies that states use to defend their populations and deter aggression. It is little wonder that larger powers like the United States and China are already racing to dominate AI and other big-data technologies. As they continue to do so, they will be playing an increasingly dangerous and unstable game, in which each technological turn could fundamentally transform politics by rendering old defenses useless.

The third challenge is the monetary revolution being driven by distributed-ledger technologies such as block chain, which holds out the promise of creating non-state money. Since Bretton Woods, monetary dominance has been a form of power, particularly for the US. But alternative modes of money will offer both governments and non-state actors new ways to assert power or bypass existing power structures. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are already disrupting markets, and could someday alter the financial relations on which modern industrial societies are based.

In the new political geography, China, Russia, India, and others see each of these challenges as opportunities to shape the future of globalization on their own terms. What they envision would look very different from the model of the late twentieth century. China, for example, regards AI as a tool for recasting political organization through mass surveillance and state-directed thinking. By replacing individualism with collectivism, it could push global politics in a profoundly illiberal direction.

Image result for Harold James is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University

Fortunately, there are alternative paths forward. In rethinking economics and security, we will need to develop an approach that advances innovation within a framework of coordinated deliberation about future social and political arrangements. We need to apply human imagination and inventiveness not only to the creation of new technologies, but also to the systems that will govern those technologies.

The best future will be one in which governments and multinational corporations do not control all of the information. The challenge, then, is to devise generally acceptable solutions based on cooperation, rather than on the destruction of competing vision.

*Harold James is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation. A specialist on German economic history and on globalization, he is a co-author of the new book The Euro and The Battle of Ideas, and the author of The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle, Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm, and Making the European Monetary Union.

Polarizing Politics in Trump Land


April  4, 2018

Analysis

 

Image result for Mike Mineham

The NRA controls The White House and The  US Congress. Fact or Fiction (Fake News)? Student activism may change that.

Polarization of extremes in politics is nothing new. But political polarization seems to have hit a new low in the USA.

This is because the National Rifle Association (NRA) is taking aim at the teens who were the survivors of the February Parkland school shooting in Florida.

These teens and their activism on gun policy have now become the target of the NRA and its supporters, who claim that the Democrats are using these student survivors as pawns to advance the Democratic agenda of tighter restrictions on firearms.

The NRA’s most outspoken board member is the musician Ted Nugent, who says the protesting students are liars and are soulless:

Ted Nugent is also notorious for inviting the then Presidential Candidate Obama to “suck on my machine gun” in 2007.

CNN provides more details about the Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, who attacked one of the Florida high school survivors, and then found that advertisers were deserting her show:

CBS News reported on the 2nd April that at least 15 companies have now pulled their advertising from Ingraham’s show in protest after her criticism of Parkland High School Senior David Hogg.

Polarization in America is most noticeable in reactions to news outlets themselves. According to the American Pew Research Centre, 9 out of 10 Democrats now say that criticism of leaders by news outlets helps prevent these leaders from doing things that they shouldn’t. But only 4 in 10 Republicans agree. The other 6 out of 10 argue alternatively that this criticizm stops leaders from doing their job.

This divergence is a 47 point gap, and it’s worsened dramatically since the Presidency of George W Bush, when the same gap between Democrats and Republicans about news media was only 27 per cent.

It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons why this chasm has widened, and why there is now so much toxicity. Perhaps the Trump mantra of ‘fake news’ is contributing. Perhaps the confrontational politics of President Trump are another causal factor. Or perhaps the way Trump uses the power of the Presidency to publicly pursue his own vitriolic vendettas might be yet another accelerant.

Image result for gun culture in america

 

But whatever, targeting school kids who have just survived a massacre in which 17 of their school friends were killed, well, that’s an all time low that should be out of bounds for even the NRA. Especially the NRA, which at other times, is at pains to project its image of law abiding citizens trying to protect the Second Amendment.

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I can’t help feeling that America is becoming another victim. The politics of viciousness now seem to be the norm.

And anyway, what sort of a culture is it that kicks kids when they’re down? I would say this is a careless culture, because these kids and their supporters will step up to the ballot box very soon.

Malaysian Joker


March 20, 2018

http://www.sarawakreport.org/talkback/malaysian-joker/

Image result for Zahrain Mohamed Hashim

I know Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Dato Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim very well. We have been close  friends for a long time. At one time, we were in Parti KeADILan Rakyat helping Anwar Ibrahim who was leading the coalition Pakatan Rakyat of PKR, DAP and PAS for GE-12 in 2008.

For reasons of our own, we left PKR. Dato Zahrain rejoined UMNO while I chose to remain a private citizen and a strident critic of the Najib  administration. We have remained close friends and we did not let politics divide us.

When he was appointed our Ambassador to Indonesia, he consulted me about the nature of the job, and sought my advice. I told him to accept the appointment but added that the job would be a challenging one since it would involve representing the elected government and the country at the same time. His duty, I said, was to do a professional job.

On the basis of the feedback I got from my Indonesian friends and associates, he is a good Ambassador with close ties to the business community, the media, the politicians, civil society leaders, and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. While we may disagree on many issues, we have been have not allowed our differences to affect our friendship. In my opinion, Dato’ Seri Zahrain is not a Malaysian joker. He is our country’s Ambassador appointed by our King to represent Malaysia.–Din Merican

Malaysian Joker

Despite the probe into 1MDB in several countries, there is “no case” against it and all allegations involving it are part of a “political game”, Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Mohamed Hashim said.

“There is no case. The police, MACC and the attorney-general have studied (the 1MDB case) and found there are no elements of fraud. It is the same case in the Parliament.

“There is no theft involved, no missing funds and no illegal flow of funds from 1MDB. 1MDB is formally still in business,” he was quoted as saying.

Zahrain also said that it has been established that no money from 1MDB – started by the government to develop investment and business – had been channelled into Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s personal account, as alleged in a report by TheWall Street Journal.

The RM2.6 billion in Najib’s account was instead a gift from a Saudi Arabian donor, he stressed.

Zahrain also questioned why US authorities did not liaise with their Malaysian counterparts if they were “sincere” in addressing the 1MDB issue.

Our comment

There is a simple question to be put to the latest joker to dance naked on behalf of Najib  Razak. If the Attorney General’s report exonerates 1MDB, then why was it unconstitutionally declared an Official Secret?

Furthermore, if “there is no case” how does he describe the civil case in the US, now pending whilst the criminal side of the investigation gets under way?  If there is no action, how does he describe the forceable seizure of the yacht Equanimy in Indonesia and Jho Low’s jet in Singapore?

If no imprisonments, how does he explain the present incarcerations of Khadem Al Qubaisi, Mohammed al Husseini and Prince Turki in their various jurisdictions?  All were key players in the 1MDB scams.

And why are Jho Low, Casey Tang, Jasmine Loo, Nik Faisal et al all on the run afraid to show their faces?  Why did Jho Low buy himself a St Kitts & Nevis Island passport?

Lastly, why did Riza Aziz’s personally owned company Red Granite Pictures just plead a deal with the US authorities and pony up US$61 million, in a plain admission that the money was – as stated only too clearly in the DOJ submissions – stolen from 1MDB?

Sadly, the Malaysian government has now evolved into a fully fledged criminal enterprise and its representatives have been transformed into gangsters of the sort that deny even the most glaring and obvious facts when challenged.

If the people want to be governed by such shameful shysters it is up to them, but they ought not to forgive these thieves and liars for attempting to steal the election as well as the country’s wealth.

Will Malaysia’s Islamization Change Course?


March 9, 2018

Will Malaysia’s Islamization Change Course?

Pundits are betting that Prime Minister Najib Razak will win Malaysia’s upcoming election. To end the Islamist one-upmanship in which the country has been mired in recent years, the opposition – now allied with Najib’s predecessor and former mentor Mahathir Mohamad – must win one-third of the seats in parliament.

PENANG – Malaysia is just a few months or even weeks away from its most contentious election in decades. Mahathir Mohamad – Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, whose rule ended in 2003 – is, at 92, working with opposition figures he once repressed to prevent his former protégé, the controversial Prime Minister Najib Razak, from securing another term. But breaking the 61-year winning streak of Mahathir’s former party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), will not be easy.

In fact, the pundits are still betting on Najib, with one pollster predicting that the incumbent could regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority, enabling him to amend the constitution. Mahathir has just a few months to change the political dynamic, by leading the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), and replacing the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) with his new party, the Malaysia United Indigenous Party (PPBM), as the primary alternative to UMNO.

While the PAS has only about 15% electoral support, it has managed to push the UMNO to implement elements of its nationalist-religious agenda. A strong enough showing by PH in the next election, however, would expose the PAS as politically dispensable, potentially freeing Malaysia from a toxic game of Islamist one-upmanship.

The impact of that game should not be underestimated. In recent years, religious intolerance has been on the rise in once-secular Malaysia. For example, the Arabic word for God, Allah, widely used by Arab and Indonesian Christians, is now reserved for Muslim use only. More alarming, the Home Ministry has banned a wide range of books, from the Indonesian translation of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to the writings of the Islam-friendly Western scholars John Esposito and Karen Armstrong.

The rise of a strict and exclusivist Islam in Malaysia reflects international trends and domestic dynamics. Ethnic-majority Malays – who were marginalized during colonial times, but now enjoy constitutionally guaranteed preferential treatment in the economy and education – must, by definition, be Muslim. The persistence of their favored status hinges on the UMNO’s political dominance, or so UMNO claims.

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Woman in Full Burka and Niqab Sits Next To Young Teen in Head Scarf, Genting Highlands, Malaysia

While early UMNO leaders were anti-clerical, the party’s success in eliminating its leftist and liberal rivals left PAS as the face of the Malay opposition. When the modernist Mahathir came to power in 1981, Islamism became the PAS’s most effective ideological weapon against the UMNO.

And, indeed, the PAS leader, Hadi Awang, then a young and charismatic cleric, advocated a radical stance, labeling any Muslim who supported the UMNO an “infidel,” because the UMNO government had supposedly “perpetuated the colonial constitution, infidel laws, and pre-Islamic rules.” Hadi’s message helped to create a deep divide between the two “kinds” of Muslims, to the extent that villages would have two mosques, two cemeteries, and two clerics to lead prayers and officiate at ceremonies.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

Prime Minister Najib Razak is taking Malaysia back to the Stone Age and that is why he must be denied 2/3 rd Majority in Parliament in GE-14

But where Hadi did the most damage was in undermining the legitimacy of Malaysia’s post-colonial state and social structures. When Malaysia was under British rule, it faced mass immigration of ethnic Chinese and Indians, and the emergence of a Christian native minority on the island of Borneo.

From a Muslim nationalist’s perspective, pluralism – together with secularism and democracy – were colonial impositions. Full decolonization would demand restoration of the dominance of Islam and Muslims. According to this narrative, the Ottoman Empire offers a model of segregated, unequal, but peaceful co-existence of multiple ethno-religious communities. Minorities lived autonomously in their “millets,” not as equal citizens, but as “dhimmis” (protected minorities).

Having once championed the establishment of a full-fledged Islamic state, the PAS now demands at least expanding Sharia law and elevating the status of the Syariah court system, which now has limited jurisdiction over Muslims’ personal and family matters, to that of the civil courts. As the PAS’s brand of Muslim religious nationalism has increasingly overridden the UMNO’s Malay ethno-nationalism, these goals have gained the support of a growing number of Muslims.<

While not known to be religious, Mahathir shrewdly co-opted Hadi’s more charismatic and visionary contemporary, Anwar Ibrahim, in 1982 to spearhead the UMNO’s own Islamization projects. From Islamic higher education to Islamic banking to religious bureaucracy, Mahathir and Anwar stole the PAS’s religious thunder – that is, until the UMNO split. In 1998, Mahathir imprisoned Anwar, who had tried to replace him. After that, the PAS absorbed many of Anwar’s followers, expanding its influence from its stronghold in the north to the entire country.

Since the 2013 election, when Najib lost the popular vote but clung to power, thanks to electoral gerrymandering, he has worked to bring Hadi on side, for example, by facilitating the potential introduction of harsh hudud punishments (mandated by God under Islamic law) for crimes like adultery, drinking, and apostasy. It was a Machiavellian masterstroke that not only drew the PAS out of the opposition coalition, but also led Hadi to defend the scandal-plagued Najib.

The PAS has announced plans to contest about 60% of parliamentary constituencies. This may siphon Malay votes from PH, giving the UMNO many narrow victories. If the turnout among Malays is low, PH will suffer more than Najib, who could end up winning more seats with even fewer votes than in 2013

As for the PAS, its continued political relevance hinges on eliminating the threat posed by Mahathir and its own splinter party, Amanah, formed by pro-Anwar moderates. If Mahathir cannot secure one-third of the seats in parliament, the PAS can claim that it is indispensable, even if it loses every constituency. In such a scenario, no Malay opposition leader would dare denounce the PAS’s Muslim nationalism. The UMNO, despite its electoral victory, would have even less of the moral courage needed to block the PAS agenda.

If Mahathir does secure one-third of the parliament, Malaysian politics will undergo significant changes, even if the UMNO remains technically in charge. If Amanah can supplant the PAS as the main Islamic party, the trend toward religious extremism would likely be reversed. And if the PPBM is established as a rival defender of Malays’ favored status, the UMNO would lose its monopoly on the issue, making Malay politics more competitive.

So far, Malaysia’s nonagenarian comeback kid has been making inroads in many UMNO and PAS constituencies. But Malays alone will not decide the outcome of his battle with the PAS and Najib. As many marginal constituencies are ethnically mixed, low turnout among non-Malays may help the PAS – and hurt Malaysia.

Wong Chin-Huat is a political scientist at the Penang Institute in Malaysia.