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Still under PAS’ shadow, Mat Sabu says ‘race to do good’ and shunning extremism set Amanah apart

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Eight years after its formation, Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu still believes in positioning his Parti Amanah Negara as an alternative for voters who are looking for an Islamist movement — but one that eschews racial and religious extremes.

Keen to present his party as different from the more vocal fringes that dominate headlines by imposing their religious requirement on others, the man called Mat Sabu points to an Islamic concept called “fastabiqul khairat” or being competitive in doing good deeds.

“For Amanah, we based every action on a Quranic verse with ‘fastabiqul khairat’, which means the race to do good,” he told Malay Mail in a recent interview.

Mohamad was referring to two verses in the Muslim holy book, 2:148 and 5:48, where Allah commanded His adherents to “compete with one another in doing good”.

“Islam is not just jurisprudence. Islam in its universal form, which we see the focus should be on improving the image of Islam,” he said, expounding on the Islamic view that Amanah subscribes to.

Inevitably, any talk on an Islamist party in the country would bring comparison to PAS — of which Amanah is a splinter.

The former PAS deputy president was quick to denounce the Perikatan Nasional component, pointing to how PAS is now playing with dangerous religious sentiments that is adversely impacting ethnic harmony.

He pointed to how Pahang Mufti Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Osman had in 2016 declared Amanah's ally DAP as “kafir harbi” and it would be a “great sin” for Muslims to support the party — and has yet to apologise for the remark.

Muslims categorise infidels who oppose Islam and regarded as enemies of the faith as “kafir harbi”, in comparison to “kafir dhimmi” who are infidels that should receive protection in an Islamic state.

“Then came the Pelangai by-election where Barisan Nasional won, and the Pahang PAS Commissioner said ‘Congratulations to the Pelangai people for choosing to stay in hell’. This type of sentiment is in the mind of their leaders and they have no effort to prohibit or reduce this kind of element,” Mohamad related.

Kepala Batas MP has an analogy, where DAP leaders are linked to Chin Peng, which was wrong. But there was no disciplinary action against her. So this element of the ‘takfiri’ element doesn’t suit us,” he said, using the Arabic term for the practice of accusing another Muslim of being an apostate.

Mohamad said after all these years, he hopes Amanah will continue to be a party that stays far away from religious extremism.

“Thank God, so far this is the eighth year. We are still surviving and the members are growing and we hope we’ll be an alternative in the future.

“God’s blessing is for everyone, we must keep the peace. Amanah is neither just for Malays nor for Muslims only, but for all races and religions,” he said.

Amanah was formed in 2015 by former PAS leaders of the so-called “Erdogan” faction, named so for their progressive views on Islam and fondness for Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ideologies from that time.

They left PAS after the party election in 2015 which saw Mohamad Sabu and other figures such as the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, Datuk Husam Musa, Datuk Mahfuz Omar, Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, Dr Mohd Hatta Md Ramli, and Khalid Samad ousted.

Salahuddin died following surgery for a brain aneurysm in July this year, and Mohamad paid tribute to his former deputy — calling him “a great man”.

“I delivered many party matters to him. He was the chairman of the Amanah election candidate selection for GE15. That's not easy work but he performed the tasks with full commitment,” he said.

On his achievements as party president, Mohamad said he would leave it to the members to decide his performance.

“I leave it to the members. I don't want to give lengthy comments because since I was in my former party, I only work and work. My evaluation as president is up to the members to decide,” he said.

Amanah will hold its party election to choose its next leadership line-up this December, in conjunction with its 2023 national convention.