PETALING JAYA: A Pakatan Harapan official has acknowledged that one of the biggest fears Malaysian politicians have is to be labelled anti-Islam.
It is a fear that burdens both opposition politicians and their counterparts in Barisan Nasional, according to Pakatan’s chief secretary, Saifuddin Abdullah.
Speaking to FMT, he said the anti-Islam label was “perhaps the most destructive” one could tag to a contemporary Malaysian politician.
He recalled a meeting he attended when he was deputy minister of higher education during Prime Minister Najib Razak’s first term.
“There was an ustaz there and he was talking about Wahabism and he labelled 20 people as Wahabis,” he said.
“I was looking at the list of people and I couldn’t help but disagree with the ustaz, but I didn’t say anything.”
During a parliamentary session some time after that meeting, Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar asked him whether those who were identified as Wahabis were blacklisted by the student loan body PTPTN.
“I took that opportunity to not only address the question, but to speak up for those 20 people who had been identified as Wahabis,” he said.
“So if you ask me whether politicians on both sides are in a way forced to tread carefully to avoid offending the religious elite, then I do agree in a way.”
Syerleena Abdul Rashid, a DAP member who serves in the Penang Municipal Council, also spoke about the issue, noting that her party had long had to face the accusation of being anti-Malay and anti-Muslim.
She said DAP’s Malay members often had to face ridicule from those who allege that their political beliefs were anti-Islam.
“We are called kafir by the takfiris for their own political motives,” she said.
“Kafir” means “rejector of the truth” and “takfiri” is a term used to describe a Muslim who calls another Muslim kafir. Islamic scholars generally agree that a takfiri becomes a kafir himself.
According to Syerleena, DAP’s detractors are using a “war tactic” when they use the “kafir” label on the party’s Muslim members.
“In martial arts, when your opponent attacks you, you defend,” she said. “In this case, BN or PAS attacks us to keep us busy defending ourselves. They continue to attack in the hope of exhausting all our resources so that we’ll give up.”
Syerleena herself has been battling groups who have attempted to paint her as anti-Muslim.
She said this had made her parents worry for her. “But what angers me the most isn’t the slander itself, but these people’s use of religion to take away focus from important issues,” she said.
“You initiate discussions on the prime minister’s suspicious investments and these nuts ask you, ‘What do you know? Where’s your headscarf? DAP Malays are Satan’s flunkies.’
“You start talking about democratising local government and decentralisation and they attack you with words like ‘DAPig’ and ‘anti-hudud.’
“Discourse becomes very schizophrenic.”