While Umno says that religion should not come into the equation, PAS maintains that Muslims can forgo the Haj if the general election is called during the pilgrimage season.
They were responding to a call by PAS to its members to postpone the Haj if elections are called between middle of August and the last week of October – the pilgrimage season.
The PAS leadership also called on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to put the minds of Muslims at ease and declare that he will not call for elections during this period.
Umno MPs turned the tables on PAS today, saying that the timing of the elections was the prime minister’s prerogative and PAS should not politicise a religious matter to gain sympathy.
Puteri Umno chief, Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin, said that PAS’ actions were a “cheap way to gain sympathy votes”.
“They are using this to gain more support. The Haj issue has political connotations and in this respect they are manipulating the minds of the Muslims,” she told FMT.
She added that the decision to call election was the prime minister’s prerogative alone and she was sure that Najib was “wise enough to decide what’s the best for the country”.
“And besides, he still has until next year to call for election,” she added.
Lenggong MP, Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, echoed the same sentiment.
“Who said that the election will be during the Haj period?” he asked, adding that not only PAS members perform Haj but Umno members too.
“I’m sure there are more Umno members performing the Haj. If the people are ready to perform their religious duty, then the question of election should not arise,” he said.
Show must go on
Pasir Salak MP, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, said that PAS should not pre-empt the election dates. He added that he has thus far not heard of Umno members postponing their Haj.
Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also said that Umno members within his division are carrying on with their Haj plans.
The Temerloh MP said: “I haven’t heard anyone asking people not to go. Of course, we will miss a few who are from the machinery but the show must go on. We have back-up plans.
“I have people in my division also going for Haj. I can’t stop them from going because it’s their religious calling.”
He added that the 20,000 to 30,000 Muslims planning to perform the Haj this year were unlikely to change the election results.
“It is a big number but I don’t think it’s going to turn the election around,” he said.
PAS and Umno, however, are clearly at loggerheads over this issue on a matter of principle.
Putting mind at ease
PAS MP Khalid Samad said that it was typical for Umno to view religion as something exclusive from politics.
The Shah Alam MP said: “Umno has always believed that politics has nothing to do with religion. But religion demands you select a leadership which is responsible and trustworthy.
“It is like knowing that robbers are about to rob your village the moment you go for Haj. And you will have to protect your village. It is a similar situation.”
PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub stressed that the announcement was merely to put the voters’ mind at ease.
“We just want a guarantee so that all Muslims regardless of whether they are from PAS or Umno can perform their religious duty without having to worry ceaselessly about the election,” he said.