The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) continues to shine. Photo/Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR – The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) continues to enjoy confidence. Ahead of the six state elections next month, PAS is predicted to continue to strengthen.
PAS plans to take over the state parliaments in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan as part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition with the Malay-based Bersatu party. “Penang may be more difficult, but we hope to reject a two-thirds majority,” said the head of PAS Kuala Kedah’s division, Ahmad Fakhruddin Fakhrurazi, reported by Channel News Asia.
In Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, the PN state government is determined to maintain control with a comfortable majority.
The state election will be seen as a barometer of support for Prime Minister (PM) Anwar Ibrahim and his coalition government. But with PAS emerging from the general election as the single largest party in Malaysia’s parliament, there is also the question of whether religious populism can become a winning strategy in the country.
Here are 3 reasons why Islamic conservative politics is growing rapidly in Malaysia.
1. Relying on Religious Populism
PAS leaders in Terengganu opposed the government’s decision, issued by four of Malaysia’s nine sultans, which banned the use of mosques to spread political messages.
“There is nothing wrong with politicians preaching,” said PAS chairman Abdul Hadi Awang. For him, politics and religion cannot be separated in Islam.
Malaysia’s king, however, as the country’s foremost custodian of Islam under his constitution, reminded Muslims in April to guard against mosques from turning into political arenas.
“Political parties or groups that use Islam to gain popularity are the essence of political Islam and Islamic populism,” said Ahmad El-Muhammady, assistant professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization.
The moving trend is that religious populism in Malaysia means a shift towards right-wing politics towards the cynical aspects of identity politics.