Malaysia

Painful history with PAS stops Muslim preacher from accepting Umno offer

BY ZULKIFLI SULONG, FEATURES AND ANALYSIS EDITOR
December 13, 2013

Ustad Mohammad Kazim Elias has a popular show on Astro Oasis and was offered an Umno supreme council seat to strengthen the party's Islamic programmes. He later declined the post.– The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, December 13, 2013.Ustad Mohammad Kazim Elias has a popular show on Astro Oasis and was offered an Umno supreme council seat to strengthen the party's Islamic programmes. He later declined the post.– The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, December 13, 2013.His painful history with PAS is the reason well-known Muslim preacher Mohammad Kazim Elias declined a seat on the Umno supreme council early this month.

Mohammad Kazim, a popular preacher with his own show on pay-TV Astro Oasis, said accepting to join the highest body of the ruling party would likely make him an object of constant slander.

“If I accepted the position, people will slander me and the prime minister and say all sorts of things just because I am an Umno supreme council member,” he told The Malaysian Insider at his private school – Al Barakah education centre – in Manjoi, Ipoh.

He also expressed concern that if he had accepted a post, all his achievements would be seen as a result of his position in Umno.

This perception, he said, would then dog him and affect his work as an independent preacher, motivational speaker and educator.

Mohammad Kazim, who was a PAS member, was a popular figure on the Umno ceramah circuit in the May 5 general election campaign.

However, his support and campaigning for Umno had been widely criticised by PAS members.

The attacks he faced while on the Umno campaign trail, he said, took a toll on him and his family. The vitriol increased when he became close to Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir.

Mohammad Kazim’s Umno appointment was announced by party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also the prime minister.

Najib had even breached Umno’s constitution by appointing Mohammad Kazim, as only those who had been in the party for three years were eligible for a seat.

Mohammad Kazim met Najib to decline the offer and later announced the decision at a ceramah in Sungai Petani.

Mohammad Kazim said he had never been an Umno member but had joined PAS together with Datuk Dr Hassan Mohamad Ali in 1998 after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked as deputy prime minister.

After joining the Islamist party, he said he had to give up his previous job to become an imam for RM500 a month.

His relationship with PAS began to strain after he was forced to turn down an offer to be an election candidate in the 2004 general election.

He turned it down because the Barisan Nasional candidate for the seat was his elder brother and his mother had told him not to contest or campaign against his brother.

His relations with PAS worsened when he started holding weekly religious talks at Zambry's official home in Ipoh.

“Since then, my family and I were continually attacked by PAS members.”

He was sacked from PAS in August 2013. He said the party did not call him to defend himself nor has he received any letter over the sacking.

Mohammad Kazim was also worried about the effect a supreme council post would have on the future of private religious school as many of his pupils were the children of PAS members and supporters.

But he was confident that Najib was sincere in wanting him to be a supreme council member to strengthen the position of Islam and the Malay community.

According to Mohammad Kazim, Najib had wanted his help to create mosque programmes that would attract youth.

Najib had also wanted him to help make films and dramas with Islamic content, as well as concerts.

Mohammad Kazim was also asked to create a life-long learning system similar to the one he runs at his school.

“Najib said I could only talk about it while on the outside but if I became a council member, I would have the power and resources to implement what I talk about.”

His closeness to the prime minister is apparent as his office has a photograph of Najib, Zambry, Mohammad Kazim and his pupils.

Another reason for Mohammad Kazim’s decision was because he wanted to concentrate on his religious school.

He made up his mind on November 28 that he wanted to concentrate on missionary work through his school where he is the principal, instead of giving political ceramah.

Mohammad Kazim said he was dedicated to the school which he started building in 2001. It now has 49 full-time employees, 130 Quran recital pupils and 400 religious studies pupils, of whom 100 live in the hostels.

The school also has hundreds of adult students who attend daily religious classes.

His Astro Oasis shows are popular with women as many of his favourite subjects are related to family issues. – December 13, 2013.