Don’t expect moderation from PAS technocrat leaders for they’re as deeply indoctrinated as their ‘ulama’ peers

WITH the exception of Kelantan which is its power base, there has been gradual emergence of non-ulama (Muslim scholar) leaders to helm states under PAS rule as evident in Kedah and Terengganu currently.

While the Islamist party acknowledges the urgency to re-shape its image when it comes to aptitude and relevance in confronting modern challenges, don’t expect such efforts to be undertaken at the expense of sidelining the ulama leadership’s authority and diluting the party’s core ideology, cautioned political scientist Azmil Tayeb.

“Common ideological commitment remains the holding centre as the ulama share the mantle of party leadership with professionals and technocrats,” opined the also associate professor at the School of Social Sciences of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in a commentary published by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“Regardless of their backgrounds, PAS leaders and members are well drilled in the party’s core ideology which is the struggle to Islamise the state and society in Malaysia.

“Many have joined PAS during their formative years, wended through its educational network, campus organisations, study circles (usrah) and various party indoctrination activities, and have fully internalised PAS’s values.”

Pointing to Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Sanusi Mohd Nor and his Terengganu counterpart Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, Azmil opined that there is no qualitative difference between the ulama and non-ulama leaders in PAS when it comes to ideological commitment.

Source: “How Far Will PAS Deviate from the Ulama Leadership Model, and Why Does it Matter?” By Azmil Tayeb (published by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)

At a glimpse, the motor mouth Sanusi who is both the PAS elections director and the party’s Kedah state deputy commissioner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from USM while Samsuri is a PhD holder in aeroengine ignition and combustion from the School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, UK.

“No one in the party doubt the devotion of non-ulama leaders such as Samsuri and Sanusi to the cause,” observed Azmil who is also a visiting senior fellow at the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“They can don their Western garb – in the case of Sanusi even go shirtless in public – or not having to pepper their speech with references from the Quran and hadith, and still be taken seriously as leaders of an Islamic party,”

Blanket ban/closure of gambling outlets in Kedah took effect on Jan 1, 2023 (Pic credit: The Star)

“It is this type of leaders, a composite of non-ulama background and party dogma that we will be seeing more from PAS in the near future.”

Citing examples, Azmil said PAS’ non-ulama leaders are no different than their ulama peers when it comes to enacting PAS’s hard-line stance on morality issues.

“Kedah under Sanusi’s administration has moved to ban all gaming and lottery outlets in the state while the professional-led government of Terengganu has introduced amendments to the state’s shariah laws that criminalise out-of-wedlock pregnancy, women who dress like men (pengkid), preparation to commit sodomy, black magic and sorcery, among others.

“Terengganu state government has also recently barred Muslim girls from gymnastics because of the sport’s tight-fitting clothes. Simply put, economic pragmatism does not equate religious moderation.” – Nov 29, 2023

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