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Hadi hits out at PAS critics

Party president put those who had tried to dilute the views of the ulama in their place, telling them there will be no compromise on the party’s Islamic struggle.Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has lost weight – some 10kg, it seems. He is on a special diet of more vegetables, no sugary drinks, less meat and fish, and, for some strange reason, he has to control his water intake.His old fire-and-brimstone speaking style also seems to have been replaced by a more sedate tone. It is probably doctor’s orders – too much excitement is not good for his heart.

As such, his presidential speech at the opening of the PAS muktamar yesterday was delivered in a measured tone with none of his trademark crescendos and dramatic pitches.

His admirers said his calmness and serenity in the face of the criticism levelled against him over the last few months are marks of his spirituality.

But the content of his speech was something else altogether. Hadi’s speech hit out at the critics of PAS, both inside and outside the party. It was one of his most fiery political speeches in years and a few people on the stage definitely felt the heat.

He put those who had tried to dilute the views of the ulama in their place, telling them there will be no compromise on the party’s Islamic struggle.

Hadi was out to set the record straight – the party is not detouring from the Islamic course, it is not going for the sake of power and short-term gains.

Its struggle, he said, exists because of the belief in Allah and the party’s original objectives take precedence. He did not say it out loud, but those objectives presumably involve the Islamic state.

He did not mince his words as he called on members to cleanse the party of “hypocritical elements” and the weak-spirited who have lost focus of the struggle.

He warned that coalition politics should not mean that PAS has to give up its Islamic policy, a point that was clearly aimed at those who want the party to go along with the secular politics of its Pakatan Rakyat partners.

He also rubbished talk that PAS would hook up with Umno.

In short, Hadi used the muktamar to set the party firmly back on its “leadership by the ulama” footing.
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The tug-of-war between the ulama and the Erdogan groups has been going on for several years but became untenable following the Selangor mentri besar crisis.

The Erdogan group’s open backing of Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for the top job was in open defiance of the ulama stand.

The fiery mood from the Youth gathering carried over to the main muktamar as delegates let off steam after watching the antics of Pakatan leaders in Selangor.

Not everyone approved of the walkout staged against deputy president Mohamad Sabu when he opened the Youth muktamar on Tuesday. They felt it was disrespectful.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad complained to some reporters that it was “destructive”.

However, Mat Sabu, as he is known, had it coming. Seen as the hero of the Erdogan group, he has been very outspoken of late, ruffling feathers in the ulama camp.

He kept up a brave front during a joint press conference with Hadi yesterday but when reporters asked Hadi about their relationship, Mat Sabu tried to end the press conference. The body language between the two was simply not there.

It looks like the ulama group has regained the upper hand after years of playing second fiddle to the Erdogans.

A great deal of it is due to the rising influence of the young Turks in the ulama group. They are well educated and they mean to take charge of the party in the years ahead.

PAS may not be in the best of shape today but its leaders have this unfailing belief that the Almighty will take care of them.

Their choice of Batu Pahat for the muktamar was a signal that they aim to replace Umno one day because this was where Umno was born.

The gathering took place under giant white tents on land belonging to an elderly supporter who was so thrilled to meet Hadi that he almost cried.

PAS is still with Pakatan but its love affair with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is over. The return to its ulama roots may yet be the signal that it is prepared to go its own way should the need arise.