By Mohd Hisham Abdul Rafar
SEREMBAN, Dec 4 (Bernama) -- History has shown that unity among the 'ummah' (Muslim community) is crucial because without strong unity, the community will be weak and easily dominated by bad elements.
Differences in political ideologies not only could mar family and community relations but worse still, it could erode their noble eastern values to the extent of creating an uneasy situation among the Malay Muslims, seen as being divided in the increasingly heated political scene in the run-up to the 14th general election.
Realising the unfavourable Malay-Muslim political landscape, UMNO chooses to be big-hearted to ensure the ummah unity agenda is a top priority and remains strong in the country.
In the interest of the ummah, UMNO under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak together with the party's 'political nemesis', PAS, were on the same platform on Dec 4 last year, championing the humanitarian issue involving the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar, hence showing political maturity by setting aside ideological differences over issues involving Muslims.
Prior to that, on Nov 24, on the matter of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355), the UMNO-led government took the historic step of making way for the Private Member's Bill tabled by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to empower the syariah courts in meting out sentences, to be read in Parliament.
How can unity of the ummah be realised?
On this question, Persatuan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Aswaja) secretary-general Haspaizi Mohd Zain believes that the understanding established between UMNO and PAS is a pivotal point towards strengthening Muslim unity.
"This is something that Muslims in this country have been waiting for. UMNO-PAS cooperation will help rebuild unity among Muslims who have been divided due to differing political ideologies.
"Actually, UMNO and PAS as Malay-dominated political parties, have more similarities than differences and therefore they need to be open-hearted. As the pillars of the Malays, the time has come for UMNO and PAS to end their rife which can be detrimental to both," he told Bernama here.
"Building strength and unity of the ummah is important as it is enjoined by Islam, besides strengthening the position of Islam as the official religion of this country.
"Just look at how certain quarters were trying to prevent the implementation of the Bill 355 and overcoming this certainly requires unity and support of the ummah," he said.
With the open attitude being adopted by UMNO, not closing its doors for cooperation or negotiation, be it with any individual, party or non-governmental organisation to empower the Malay Muslims has been well received by PAS.
This, despite the party often insisting that their cooperation would never involve the political aspect but the interest of Islam and welfare of the ummah.
The government today has become more tolerant in its role of prospering the country and its people through various assistance and development incentives.
As a result, PAS-ruled Kelantan has benefited from numerous forms of aid including economic stimulus when the government announced the East Coast Rail Line project which can bring about economic overflow for the local residents.
The 600-km rail will connect the Klang Valley to the peninsula's East Coast through a network of train service which passes through Port Klang, the Gombak Integrated Transport Terminal, Bentong, Mentakab, Kuantan, Kemaman, Kerteh, Kuala Terengganu, Jelawat in Bachok and Pengkalan Kubor, Tumpat at the other end.
On last Nov 20, Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah admitted that the state's government's relations with the federal government has improved, especially after the 2014 massive flood that hit the state, as there has been more cooperation between both sides for the well-being of the people.
On the people's side, a trader, who wished to be known only as Suhaimi, 50, said the UMNO-PAS relations over matters involving the ummah should be supported by all quarters, and that both parties should no longer be bogged down by narrow ideology which could divide the people.
"This is what you call mature politics... I have been waiting for this development. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), of late this seems positive. There is no longer such issues like calling each other infidel among Muslims and this is what we, the people want to see.
"They (political leaders) need to be exemplary to the people, particularly the Malay Muslims. Continue to cooperate for the good of the ummah. Who says the opposition and the government cannot work together," he said.
Political analyst Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali opined that the political tussle and pressure faced by both parties especially after their respective internal conflicts made UMNO-PAS cooperation possible although it was not on a coalition platform but based on having the same political enemy.
"These two main Malay political parties should return to the basis of their struggle, that is to protect Islam and the Malays as the continuity of the ummah depends on the willingness of UMNO and PAS to sit together at the discussion table in the interest of the ummah.
"Perhaps, PAS also needs to depend on UMNO supporters to garner votes in Malay-majority areas in view of the significant threat from PBBM (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) and Amanah (Parti Amanah Negara)," said the lecturer at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies, UiTM Raub campus, Pahang.
He said good relations between both parties could balance out the many threats faced by Muslims and the Malays, hence empowering the majority community in Malaysia.