Umno is in danger of being taken over by extremist ideologies who claim to represent true Islam, warns an academic.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political scientist Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said this was because the party had received membership from those with Wahhabi/Salafist tendencies, a branch of Islam which claims to bring back the purity of Islam but which considers many other schoools of thought as having deviated.
“It is like taking a genie out of the bottle. You can’t put it back in,” said Fauzi as quoted by The Star today, explaining that even if Umno president had vowed the party not to embrace extremism, the existence of such a group within the party meant there was no guarantee the promise could be kept once he was out of the scene.
Fauzi was referring to some 40 “Muslims scholars” who formed the so-called “Ulama Muda Umno” in 2010.
Leading the pack was Datuk Fathul Bari Mat Jahaya, who has been at the forefront of attacks on Muslims who do not share the Wahhabi way of thinking.
Fathul has stirred controversy over the years with his religious ideas, and has become a main source of Islamic reference for Umno Youth.
Fauzi, who published his paper on “The Extensive Salafization of Malaysian Islam”, was asked about the worrying trend of extremist ideas becoming mainstream among Muslim scholars in the country.
He said such a radicalisation did not happen over a short period, but attrubuted it to various factors including the influence of Saudi Arabian petro-dollars in the 1980s in its effort to counter the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
“People don’t realise it but this way of thinking has now become mainstream,’’ The Star quoted Fauzi as saying.
He said many Muslims had gone to the Middle East in the hope of deepening their Islamic knowledge, only to come back with intolerant and exclusivist ideas.
Some of them later joined the civil service, and got government positions of influence.
“They can’t think along the lines that a particular action will aggrieve a part of the school population even though they are the minority.
“When the Holy Prophet practised justice, justice is most meaningful when it is practised on those who are not a majority,” he said.