PAS standing in support with Teresa Kok: Has the Islamist party mellowed down and switched role with UMNO?

WHEN Seputeh MP Teresa Kok received death threats in her mail recently, one of the first to announce their support for her and condemn the act was PAS secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan.

It was an unlikely support considering PAS’ reputation as a hardline Islamist party which is always on loggerheads with the Chinese-dominated, left-leaning DAP.

But whether or not then Perikatan Nasional (PN) chief whip and PAS were motivated by political mileage in condemning the threat of political violence, the party is – as far as this issue is concerned – one up from its archnemesis UMNO which had remained silent on this issue.

In fact, since the 15th General Election (GE15), UMNO had become much more strident than PAS in championing Malay-Islamic issues as the former struggles to make up for lost ground among the largest community in the country.

Take the KK Super Mart issue where a pair of socks with the “Allah” inscription was found being sold in one of the convenience chain’s 800-strong stores nationwide.

While UMNO Youth chief Dr Mohamad Akmal Saleh whipped up ethno-religious sentiments to a frenzy with his calls for a boycott of the chain store, PAS refused to play the game and did not endorse the boycott.

In fact, PAS’ decision to not join the race-baiting game with regard to the KK Super Mart issue somehow helped it gained brownie points from non-Malays who were largely upset not just with Dr Akmal and UMNO but also Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who did not censure the right-wing racial posturing.

This is a stark reversal of roles for UMNO and PAS with the former regarded as the more moderate party before this compared with the latter.

But the reversal is not surprising considering UMNO is hoping to regain support from the Malays with its posturing while PAS, the lynchpin of Perikatan Nasional (PN), wants to tone down its extremist reputation to woo the non-Malays.

Of course, PAS would be foolish to think that the non-Malays will now embrace the party wholeheartedly with these gestures. For example, non-Muslims have still not forgotten PAS president Tan Sri Hadi Awang’s remarks that non-Malays are the main bribe-givers in Malaysia. One or two swallows do not make a summer.

But as it is, there appears to be a surface shift in direction for both UMNO and PAS with the former fast advancing to the right of the political spectrum while the latter heads towards the middle.

These may all just be political theatrics but if neither party changes course in the long-run, there may come a day where these top two Malay parties would become unrecognisable to todays’ voters, forever changing the political landscape as we know it. – May 22, 2024

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