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An old issue revisited

Posted: 23 Nov 2013 03:59 PM PST

So the Malays are not really as religious as most people may think. And if they vote for PAS (or Pakatan Rakyat) it is not because they love Islam but because they hate Umno (or Barisan Nasional). And if they do hate Umno or Barisan Nasional it is not because of Islam but because of other issues such as arrogance, abuse of power, corruption, and so on.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

PAS needs to woo young Malays and women voters says Dr Dzulkefly

(The Star) - PAS needs to reach out to young Malays and women voters to gain a bigger victory in the next general election.

PAS Research Centre director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the post mortem on the 13th general election results revealed that the party should direct its attention to Malay youths as this segment of voters will increase.

"The party's image among youths is still positive but we must enhance such support. There is also a need for us to reach out to middle and lower income group, whose monthly household income is less than RM4,000, and those aged below 40," he said in his winding up speech during the 59th PAS Muktamar at the Malawati Stadium Saturday.

Dr Dzulkefly said the party should also woo more women voters as only 35% of the fairer sex supported them.

"The general backing by the Malay community towards PAS is 40% but this needs to be increased to about 44% to enable a larger win for PAS in the 14th general election," he said.

He added that PAS should organise more activities to capture the hearts and imagination of young Malay voters, whose support for the party stood at about 46%.

Dr Dzulkefly said on average, PAS lost 2% of Malay votes while PKR lost 7% from the same category.

"DAP, on the other hand, gained an additional 2% of the Malay votes," he said.

Dr Dzulkefly said it was important that the new PAS leadership come up with strategies to enable the party to push forward in the 14th general election.

"Pakatan Rakyat can be proud that we gained over 50% of the popular vote in the 13th general election but unfortunately, we were unable to take over Putrajaya," he said, adding that PAS' dream of replacing Umno as the defenders of the Malay community had to be delayed.

In the May 5 general election this year, PAS won 21 parliamentary seats, compared to the 23 they won in the March 2008 polls.

Its partners PKR won 30 parliamentary seats while DAP secured 38 seats.


One thing I do know about Dr Dzul, after working with him for more than a decade since 1999, is that he is an honest person who does not fear calling a spade a spade. On top of that he is pretty professional in how he does things.

I sometimes wonder whether PAS is actually the right party for him seeing that you cannot always be honest in politics and if you state what you really feel regarding religion it can get you into a lot of trouble.

Nevertheless, he is still an Islamist at heart. To be honest, though, most of my interaction with him has been on a political level and somehow we never seem to discuss Islam in any great depth other than the political aspects of the party struggle. Hence I am really not able to assess his stand regarding Islam, the Islamic State, or the Islamic Sharia laws of Hudud.

Anyway, much of what Dr Dzul said is very pertinent and is something I, too, have been saying for quite some time. For example, 51% of the registered voters are women while about 53% of those who come out to vote are women as well. Therefore, if only 35% of the women support you, that would not augur well for your party. (I did write about this recently when I said a law should be passed that at least 30% or so of those who contest the elections should be women).

The next point Dr Dzul made was regarding the support of the youth, especially those below 40. And Dr Dzul also specifically mentioned Malay youth because he knows that ultimately PAS and Umno are battling to win the hearts and minds of the Malays, particularly those in the Malay heartland.

So Dr Dzul was very accurate about his assumptions and, more importantly, very honest in admitting the weaknesses of PAS and the areas they need to strengthen if they wish to garner more Malay support, especially the Malay youth and Malay women.

I remember having a conversation with Mustafa Ali and a few of the other PAS leaders, the late President Fadzil Noor included, regarding this matter about 30 years ago back in the 1980s. And this was what I said.

To attract the youth you have to be less 'Arabic' and more 'western'. We have to understand that we are competing with the TV and movies, and the western influence on the Malay youth is extremely strong. Are not Malays 'rockers' at heart when it comes to lifestyle and choice of music?

If most of the PAS leaders look, dress and talk like Arabs, that is not going to attract the youth. Why can't some of the PAS leaders dress in jeans and T-shirts rather than in Arab robes and turbans? Just look at the pictures of the PAS leaders in Harakah, the party newspaper. They all look like they have just come from the Arabian Desert.

Mustafa Ali agreed and commented that he actually has many photographs taken in suits or batek shirts but somehow Harakah keeps publishing the same old ones again and again where he is dressed like an Arab.

I then used the analogy of the Prophet Muhammad receiving the first revelation of the Quran. When the angel Gabriel appeared before the Prophet, he got a fright and ran home shivering. That was because Gabriel did not look human, obviously.

And why are all the Prophets humans and not angels? Humans are supposed to be imperfect while angels are perfect. Would it not be better that God sent angels as His messengers rather than humans?

The answer to this, I told Mustafa Ali, was because messengers have to be fellow humans who look like humans. If angels were to descend to earth the humans would run away in fear and not get close to these angels.

Hence, to get close to people, you need to look, talk and act like them. If you look, talk and act differently, you will never be able to get close to the people you are trying to get close to. And for the PAS people to be able to get close to the young Malay rockers, you need to appear, communicate and act like them and not like someone who just arrived from the Arabian Desert.

PAS is good at preaching to the already converted in the mosques and at their own party functions or ceramah. But preaching to the converted is not good enough. That is not gaining new ground. You need to reach the Malays at rock concerts, pubs, clubs, discos and so on -- basically people who do not come to you or go to the mosques.

Look at the mosques on Fridays. Because the Friday prayers are compulsory the mosques are packed and the streets surrounding the mosques jammed. But that is only one out of 35 prayers a week. What about the balance of the 34 prayers? Well, the mosques are quite empty because people don't bother to go to the mosques unless it is compulsory. Even those who do, but just on Fridays, sleep or daydream while the sermon (kutbah) is being read.

So the Malays are not really as religious as most people may think. And if they vote for PAS (or Pakatan Rakyat) it is not because they love Islam but because they hate Umno (or Barisan Nasional). And if they do hate Umno or Barisan Nasional it is not because of Islam but because of other issues such as arrogance, abuse of power, corruption, and so on.

Basically, your political strategy is to play up the hate factor. As long as people hate the other side they will vote for you. But they are not voting for you because of their love for Islam. And that is why the mosques are empty 34 times and full only once at Friday lunchtime.

I asked this question before, 30 years ago. Is PAS a missionary movement or a political party? PAS acts like a missionary movement while it is supposed to be a political party. If you want to preach and spread Islam then go and do it outside the party and leave the party the job of winning elections.

The answer I got (at least 30 years ago) is that PAS wants to spread Islam and is really not bothered about winning elections. Spreading Islam is the first job and winning elections is merely a bonus if it does happen.

I believe PAS has changed a bit since then and winning elections is as important as spreading Islam. But then to whom are you spreading Islam? The Christian missionaries spread Christianity to the non-Christians. The Muslims spread Islam to the Muslims. Is this not, again, preaching to the already converted?

And let's be honest about it, considering the manner in how the Muslims conduct themselves, do you really think that the non-Muslims will be attracted to Islam even if you do preach Islam to them? I mean you cannot even fill up the mosques 34 times a week other than that one particular day at lunchtime on Friday. So what success are you going to have with the non-Muslims when you have failed even with the Muslims?

PAS will need to move to the centre and become less Arabic. Islamisation and Arabisation are two different things. And when PAS moves more to the centre the party will look less frightening to those who perceive radical Islam as a threat to the peace and security of the nation. 

More importantly, though, when PAS moves more to the centre and appears less radical, Umno, too, will be forced to move to the centre and take a less radical stance. And two major Malay parties, PAS and Umno, that are less radical and more centrist can only be good for Malaysia. And hopefully this will give birth to the politics of issues rather than the current politics of hate.

In short, you vote for me because you believe I can be a better government rather than you vote for me because you hate the other side (whether it is radical Islam or Malay nationalism that you hate).


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