Is Hadi’s religious extremism a sign of unease with Umno?

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s proposal of a “Muslim-only-cabinet” seems to be another extreme political rhetoric to disengage with non-Muslims in the country.

As everybody knows, it has nothing to do with the religion of Islam. Instead, it has all to do with the extreme politics of Hadi to ensure that PAS is not reduced to being an appendage to the racial politics of Umno.

His remark about only Muslims in the cabinet seems to reflect the dilemma the party is under his leadership. His latest remark, to be read with other remarks, basically indicates that the party is at pains to chart its own political course in the country; something independent of Umno.

Hadi knows very well that PAS’ “dedak” association with Umno might cost his party the crucial votes it needs in the coming general election. The failure of PAS to take up matters relating to corruption and abuses of power by BN has caused considerable uneasiness within the ranks of the party.

Thus, by taking an extreme stand on matters of decisionmaking and governance, Hadi wants to present an alternative model to Muslims in Malaysia. A model in which non-Muslims have no role.

So what Hadi is doing is not something unusual, especially when he realises that his party is going nowhere with Umno. Until the time of the next general election, Hadi would be engaging in the most extreme sectarian politics to ensure that PAS is in the mainstream of the political contest.

This is the dilemma of many political parties that take on very radical positions at a time when their support base is dwindling.

Hadi is not stupid. He knows that PAS’ association with Umno might not be in the interest of the former for a long period. If there is such a possibility, he must outshine Umno, especially in the realm of Islam. This is the weakest link of Umno.

While Pakatan Harapan might not welcome PAS, Hadi is in a dilemma to address the rumblings within his own party especially with those members who still think that partnership in Harapan might be possible.

Hadi might have his reasons for being accommodating towards Umno, but then he also realises that many in PAS – especially the grassroots members which have long been socialised into thinking that “Umno is their enemy” – are not comfortable with this partnership.

Preparing for an Umno-free future?

Politics in PAS under Hadi is not simply about strengthening the bonds with Umno. Far from it. It is also preparing PAS for a future role in the country with or without Umno.

For Hadi, too much accommodation with Umno might not be desirable. He knows very well that the party cannot even guarantee that Kelantan remains the future stronghold of PAS. He knows that Umno might upset things in Kelantan.

His latest extremist remarks on non-Muslims are basically a measure of his ability or inability to keep the party intact in facing the next general election.

As too much accommodation with Umno might reduce the party to nothing, Hadi wants to ensure that PAS under his leadership remains the only political organisation for Malay Muslims in the country.

From another perspective, he is telling the Malay Muslims in the country that Umno is too tainted by the non-Muslims to offer a fresh political perspective on the future governance of the country.

YB Prof. Dr. P. Ramasamy