JUNE 1 — By the time you read this, the result for the Teluk Intan by-election is already known and to whoever won it, I only have this to say: “I told you so.”
Meanwhile, at the time of writing, it is at the final hours of campaigning. Two weeks of an exhilarating ride that a lot of us did not really expect.
Despite that, the Teluk Intan by-election must have been a horrible nightmare for conservative Malay-Muslims.
On one side is Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud. A seemingly “liberal” Malay woman who had joined, of all parties, the opposition DAP: usually seen as synonymous with anti-Malay and anti-Islam. Undeservingly so but that is another story.
On the other side, an infidelic non-Malay: Mah Siew Keong.
Whether Dyana did win or lose yesterday — or tomorrow for me — her biggest victory might have been this: unmasking political hypocrisy on both sides of the political divide.
With her candidacy, Umno could no longer urge Malay voters to simply vote for the Malay candidate, that only a Malay can protect the interests of the community.
As a result, they had to work doubly hard to convince their target audience that it is totally fine to vote for and put your trust in a BN candidate, even if he is not the Malay one among the choices.
For example, Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, a popular young religious preacher, had to explain in rallies that there also exists the concept of tahaluf siyasi in Umno, just that it was not being called by that name.
Tahaluf siyasi, roughly meaning “political consensus”, has been the term used by Islamist party PAS to explain and justify their alliance with DAP, widely seen as a predominantly Chinese party.
Ironically, that concept had previously been rubbished by Umno, which said that PAS was diluting its fight for an Islamic state by being an ally with secular DAP.
Similarly, PAS had condemned Gerakan for threatening to file a legal suit should it continue insisting on the implementation of the controversial Islamic penal law of hudud.
With MCA and Gerakan both huge critics of hudud, PAS usually would have had an easy time painting BN as being against an Islamic obligation.
Not so this time, when they had somehow accepted that Dyana, coming from DAP, has no support at all for its implementation, much like the BN parties PAS has whacked before.
Coincidentally, in a seminar on hudud organised by Kelantan PAS just days after campaigning started, central committee member Nik Abduh Nik Abd Aziz had detailed a spectrum of categories illustrating the acceptance of hudud.
One of the categories described those who are Muslim and claimed to not reject hudud, but disagreed with its implementation. He labelled those in that category as “huge sinners.”
Would PAS dare to repeat the same claim, and call Dyana a “huge sinner” in the middle of Pakatan Rakyat’s campaign? I doubt that very much.
Much of the attention has been given to Dyana’s looks, and men seemed to think that they should have a say about her choice of dress.
This included a banner bearing BN’s logo hung in downtown Teluk Intan, quoting popular (but also popularly sexist) religious preacher Azhar Idrus, mocking those who only wear headscarves on-and-off as thinking that punishments in Hell will also be on-and-off.
It was a reference to Dyana, who could be seen donning a selendang to cover her head when attending Malay-centric or PAS events, but without it most of the time.
Which was funny, because some Umno supporters had been adamant in defending a certain high profile wife when she was mocked by PAS for not covering her head, saying that it was her choice to do so.
Funnier too for PAS, because they could somehow accept Dyana who eschewed the more conservative or Arabic headgear worn by PAS members for something traditionally Malay.
PAS members had even needed to defend themselves for not being bothered by Dyana’s seemingly carefree approach that would have invited scorn had it been somebody linked to Umno.
In their defence, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad had reportedly justified it by saying that although Dyana did not choose to cover her head, at least she dressed modestly.
If PAS can accept Dyana for what she is and how she looks, then how come it cannot extend the same attitude towards the rest of the Malay women population, instead of playing moral police?
One of the biggest hypocrisies, however, had to be BN’s, which this time around touted itself as “the most successful multi-racial party” in the world. In addition to that, Mah also praised Gerakan for its inclusivity and claimed that race-based politics has no future in Malaysia.
All this happened after Dyana announced her stand against racial politics, and how that had led her to choose DAP for its inclusiveness.
Perhaps the biggest blow in this election is against the images of PKR and PAS: how could a Malay woman deliberately choose to enter DAP?
Would this lead to the intake of more Malays in DAP? Would DAP be more representative of Malaysians? Would it finally shed its image of being a Chinese-centric party?
Should DAP succeed in all this, then where would this leave PKR and PAS? Why should Malays even join them? These questions will continue to haunt these two parties long after the by-election is done and dusted.
In my opinion, never has a recent election opened up so many questions and possibilities about the future of Malaysian politics. If anything, DAP and Dyana can surely be proud of that.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.