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INTERVIEW Although the struggle of PAS is still centred around Islam, the party now has deviated from what was envisioned by its late president Fadzil Noor.

Faiz Fadzil, the fifth child of Fadzil -  who passed away suddenly in 2002 - said the openness advocated by his father has resulted in the party entering the mainstream of politics in the country.

“Now PAS is backward, closed. I believe my father, if he was here, would not be happy.

“I remember the statement of my late father ( photo, below ) during the PAS muktamar of 2000 or 2001. He said PAS had to be open and cooperate with other political parties as we cannot do it alone.

“By doing this, it would not put PAS outside the orbit of the Islamic struggle but we should not narrow Islam to only focus on hudud,” Faiz said in an interview with Malaysiakini last week.

The strategy adopted by PAS now, following the election of the conservative ulama group as party leaders, has taken the party backwards, to where it was in the 1970s and 1980s, Faiz, 38, said.

PAS was now 'a closed group' following the muktamar and the party elections held early this month

Faiz, lawyer by profession who graduated from the International Islamic University (IIU), said in the past, PAS was considered a rural party,  but since the late 1980s, there has been a shift in the party paradigm, with a more open concept that attracted the professionals to join.

Following this, there came political cooperation which formed the then Barisan Alternatif and similar pacts with other opposition parties.

“The openness and slogan 'PAS For All', where PAS was open to all races, has ceased. I see the new leaders now are more closed, focusing only on religious issues, without thinking of the importance of openness and cooperation.

Nik Aziz left a huge vacuum

Faiz, the former PAS Negeri Sembilan leader, pointed out that the ulama hardliners within the party do not understand the political reality of Malaysia.

“They view Islam from a narrow perspective whereas Islam's sphere is much more wide,” he stressed.

The present ulama leadership, he added, also failed to realise that Malaysians live in a multi-racial society, plus the fact that the Chinese now prefer DAP over BN's MCA or Gerakan.

For this reason, Faiz said, he could not see any reason for PAS to be enemies with DAP when there were political benefits to be reaped.

Faiz also noted that the death last February of former Kelantan menteri besar, the late Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat ( photo ), who was also the party's influential spiritual adviser, had left a huge vacuum which has yet to be filled.

Nik Aziz, he added, was highly respected within the party.

“His views and advice were respected and adopted by the party faithful and his hard stance against the so-called unity government (with Umno) was respected. That is why the idea was abandoned.

“At present, there is no senior figure in the party to give advice. Anwar (Ibrahim, the PKR de facto leader) is considered a public figure and opposition leader, and Nik Aziz's loss along, with Anwar's jailing, has affected the dynamics within the opposition as there are no middlemen,” he said.

The young PAS leader said when his father led PAS, he (Fadzil) attracted many professionals, such as Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Khalid Samad, who are not only professionals but also have in-depth knowledge of the religion.

This, the continued entry of professions into the party, he warned, could lessen under the new leadership.

A different political strategy

“The move to 'meng-ulama professional' (moulding professionals with expertise in religion) is successful. At that time, there were not many religious scholars who were active in politics as they preferred to concentrate on propagating and teaching Islam.

“However, with the formation of Pakatan Rakyat governments, we see these young ustaz (teachers of Islam) becoming active in politics. From the 1990s to 2008, there were not many ulama and we saw the rise in professionals.

“However, with the emergence of more ustaz, they have a special place in the party. That is why we see the struggle between them and the professionals, resulting in the professionals being sidelined,” he said.

Asked about his views as to where PAS went wrong, Faiz opined that the presence of more ustaz or religious scholars who had returned from studies in the Middle East as the main reason.

“They were more active in PAS when the opposition governments were formed post-2008. As religious scholars, they have a special place in the party, but they do not understand the intricacies of Malaysian politics.

“They try to bring the Middle Eastern influence back to Malaysia, whereas the situation is different in Malaysia. The Arabs may have many tribes but they are quite united as one in terms of being Arabs.

“In Malaysia, we have the Malays and even then they are subdivided into various groups. And we have the Chinese and the Indians, and others. Certainly then, our political strategy has to change,” he said.

Faiz emphasised the need to return to the philosophy of his late father and Nik Aziz, which he said the present leadership has failed to realise.

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