Hallowed the charter be

pic by BERNAMA

NOW that Umno and PAS had signed what is dubbed as the Piagam Muafakat Nasional, which some had translated as National Consensus Charter (the choice of consensus as the translation of muafakat is what offered by Google), the obvious question is how does it move forward.

While petty considerations such as taking over marginal states such as Perak and Kedah seem to excite some as much as how the re-distribution of positions in states where PAS and Umno helm will be done to reflect the marriage.

The spoils of war or ghanimah, to give it a bit of Arabic/Islamic flavour to suit the new collaboration, if shared even before the election war is fought, can go a long way in further sealing the marriage.

After all, it is an unprecedented cooperation which split when all the way back to the day PAS was formed in 1951, a splinter of Umno created by its clerics or ulamak.

Though then it was still very much a nationalist Islamist party with nationalism and religiosity interplaying, depending on which suits the occasion and that had made it quite easy for its first collaboration since the split in the 1970s when it became a member of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN).

But the bitter break in 1978 saw PAS moving on to be more religious-centric not only in its pronouncements but also in outlook, donning the Arabic attires and attacking its opponents, Umno in particular, of being un-Islamic and in some instances declaring them infidels.

It pushed out the remnants of the post-independence nationalists and adopted the Kepimpinan Bersama Ulamak, which simply meant clerics’ leadership.

Current PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, then an impressive, fiery orator, was central in the transformation of PAS into a religious-centric party.

Whether it was coincidental or otherwise, it was at a time when revolutionary Islam was in fashion, styled or tailored after the Iranian Islamic revolution. Though most in PAS was Sunni Muslims, the leader of the Iranian Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini, a Shiite, was very much idolised.

It was during this period that relations between PAS and Umno were at its lowest and Hadi with his now infamous Amanat or decree is accused to be the reason for the acrimonious divide leading to Umno members deemed infidels, segregated prayers and refusal to eat animals slaughtered by Umno members, among others.

The Memali tragedy which saw the death of 14 PAS supporters and four policemen in 1985 is the culmination of the Umno-PAS antagonism.

There were attempts to remedy the divide but it seems both Umno and PAS were stuck in that phase of time that it never crossed anyone’s mind that there will ever come a time that such a collaboration that was inked last week will materialise.

But there are opinions that seem to not want to put too much weight to the new collaboration and history sides such views especially if the cooperation is perceived to be merely for political expedience.

Furthermore, the Malay dualism — nationalism and religiosity — had always been the cause of the community’s long-standing schism.

If the collaboration in BN in the 1970s, realised after the bloodied racial riots of 1969 is of any essence, efforts to unite the Malays can only be realised when there is a sense of being under siege.

Similarly, the present cooperation is founded on the siege propagation meaning that it can only work if the community does feel that its continued existence and longevity is under threat.

In other words, the siege or threat, perceived or real, needs to be perpetuated for the cooperation to be realised and sustained.

Again, if history is to be of essence, then the moment the community doesn’t feel threatened or under siege the collaboration will disintegrate as what had occurred in 1978 when PAS was kicked out of BN.

Now that Umno has lost the government and PAS is merely a Malay-belt champion, and the centre is controlled by parties that do not subscribe to right wing ethno-religious positioning, it is quite easy to whip up the Malay/Islam under threat sentiments.

What is unsavoury is that, when the siege mentality could be created, it dismisses reasons and rationale, accepting even dubious personalities facing dozens of charges for financial shenanigans, in the name of Malay and Islam.

It leaves a bitter after taste that a unity, pursued in divine and cosmic causes, can ignore the ignominy of characters and allowed to be central the establishment of what is deemed to be a hallowed.

The collaboration had been made sacrosanct, making it profane for Malay Muslims to raise issue even if they supported the unity but not the personalities.

With that, the very personalities who had desecrated all things sacred to the Malays and Islam when they were in power, are given the opportunity to whitewash their sins in the courts of public opinion regardless what the courts of law may decide.

To seal it, all they need is the jubah (robe) and a skull cap.


Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.

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