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A march into mediaeval controversy

Terengganu Pas youth members marching with what appear to be replica weapons at the Himpit gathering - PAS YOUTH/FACEBOOK

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In responding to criticisms of the controversial “Himpunan Pemuda Islam Terengganu” (Terengganu Islamic youth gathering) or Himpit gathering reportedly organised by the youth wing of Pas, party deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man insisted that the public should not be unduly worried by the show of seeming belligerence by its members.

Pictures and clips of party members clad in mediaeval Islamic war costumes and carrying replica weapons, including bows, swords and spears have made their rounds on social media, causing a stir among Malaysians, particularly the non-Muslim community and concerned Muslims.

Tuan Ibrahim, however, assured the public that the war-tinged parade was merely akin to a Chinese opera.

But then, since when has the Islamist party been known to have lent support to operatic activities, let alone Mak Yong?

Moreover, Chinese operas are performed on stage – not paraded on the streets – and the characters normally do not flash replica weapons.

In the same breath, the Kubang Kerian MP urged his detractors not to waste time judging this attention-seeking event, and instead focus on “more meaningful things such as tackling the rising cost of living, education and social problems”.

Perhaps this golden advice should have been preached to Pas’ youth wing before they ventured to act like Muslim warriors of the mediaeval past – a narrative that does not do justice to Islam, which promotes peace.

That is why this political parade prompted the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for religious affairs, Dr Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, to intervene and advise members of the public not to participate in such an event, which could cause misunderstanding and public anxiety.

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He rightly called on the event organisers to instead promote Islamic values that prioritise peace and harmony. Such an approach would go a long way towards building a diverse society on the foundation of mutual understanding, trust and respect.

The general public would surely be appreciative of youth, including Pas youth, who would instead spend time in efforts to improve conditions in society, such as finding ways and means to help the poor and the marginalised cope with the rising cost of living, take care of the educational needs of poor children, and help stem drug addiction among the young.

Besides, why did the party members need to don war costumes and carry fake weapons at a supposedly political event? Surely, this was not in preparation for a costume party.

We are made to understand that this parade was part of a design competition based on the theme of clothing, weapons and Islamic heritage.

The party should have instead taken this opportunity to highlight Islamic heritage in terms of its past achievements in and contributions to science, medicine, maths, architecture and culture for the intellectual benefit of the youth as well as other interested people. It is pride that is well placed in Islamic history.

It makes you wonder, though, whether this parade was one way of Pas wanting to tell the public that they are a truly Islamic force to be reckoned with – after being re-energised by a huge electoral success in the last general election.

But what was the party trying to convey, especially to impressionable minds, by showcasing war costumes and replica weapons?

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This would not be the first incident that has sparked public uneasiness, particularly among non-Muslims. In the last general election, a viral video showed a group of people on horseback carrying Pas and Perikatan Nasional flags, as well as white and green flags with the Shahadah (key statement of Islamic belief) written on them. The Shahadah is a central part of the Islamic faith.

There is a bigger war worth waging by everyone in Malaysia, irrespective of their ethnicities, religions and political affiliations: it is the fight against poverty, injustice, corruption, racism, hypocrisy, extremism and ignorance. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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