PAS Playing up Alcohol, Bars for Malay Support

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PAS is trying to strengthen its Malay-Muslim support by playing up issues on alcohol and sex segregation in cinemas, said analysts.

They told The Malaysian Insight that recent statements made by PAS leaders on the selling of alcohol and the closing of nightclubs are a formula to champion the Malay-Muslim agenda when the government is led by Malay-Muslim parties.

A segment of the Malays largely believe that the Islamist party is making the right “noise” as the country is facing many social issues, including drink-driving.

Dr Azmil Talib from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said statements from PAS leaders on these issues coincide with widening race and religious polarisation in Malaysia.

“Malaysians have become more polarised with the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims widening under the Pakatan Harapan administration.

“I see this as a way for PAS leaders to exploit the polarisation and to gather more support from the Malay community.”

PAS did not care much about the non-Muslims and non-Malays because it does not regard the group as beneficial for them in elections, he said.

“PAS is not going to contest in mixed areas,” Azmil said.

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Last week, Pasir Puteh MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh, during the debate on the Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020 to propose heavier fines for drink-driving offenders, said no religion allowed its followers to consume alcohol and that the Bible had been distorted.

Amid the fury that he sparked and a police investigation for sedition, the Pasir Puteh MP stood by his comments, refusing to apologise for hurting Christians.

Later, another PAS lawmaker, Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, said he agreed with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that pubs and nightclubs should remain closed as long as the movement control order is in place.

“You don’t need to party until you are drunk, where you then raise many problems,” Khairuddin said on social media.

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Khairuddin said only a handful of people want pubs and bars to reopen with “many against it”.

Such statements from PAS leaders appeared just as the PAS-controlled Terengganu imposed a regulation separating men and women in cinemas. The new ruling was based on guidelines set by the Kemaman Municipal Council (MPK).

Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, however, said PAS’ strong stand on such issues is just to show support for policies undertaken by the Perikatan Nasional government.

Zawawi’s alcohol remarks are in support of Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong’s speech in Dewan Rakyat to increase the penalty for drink driving, he said.

Likewise, Khairuddin’s remarks on pubs are to support Muhyiddin, who made his original statement in a jest.

“It is not PAS’ intention to force its belief on the people or there is an urgency from the grassroots. This is to show support for the prime minister and transport minister.”

Kamarul said any change of policies would be discussed at the cabinet level.

“At this level, there will be non-Muslim representatives who would express their opinions.

“I am confident the cabinet and the parliament would respect the voices of the majority, including non-Muslims,” he said.

Civil society support

Muslim groups, such as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), said the suggestion from PAS to close all nightclubs can curb immoral activities partly caused by alcohol consumption.

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“From a political point of view, there may be different perspectives, but for Muslim NGOs, we always support,” said Isma president Aminuddin Yahya.

PAS has been consistent about banning alcohol and pubs, even before becoming the government, he said.

“They should implement it when they become the government. But I understand, we have procedures with local authorities, cabinet, and so on.”

Gerakan Pembela Ummah’s Izzat Johari said it’s time for PAS to act rather than just voice out its views.

He also urged the PAS leadership not to issue statements as party members, but officially as government administrators.

“Pembela has always been consistent that nightclubs are better closed. When the government first implemented the movement-control order, we found that there were nightclubs operating quietly.

“No minister responded then, but now when PAS MPs issue statements, they should issue them as government administrators, so we know that PAS is consistent and firm on alcohol and nightclubs.”

Izzat said there is no problem for PAS to make statements to get the support from the grassroots but the party needs to act immediately.

“Before this, when PAS was in the opposition, it vigorously fought to close liquor factories and nightclubs.

“Now do you want to wait until you get absolute power to make a decision? – TMI