KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Ex-Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who Umno officials claim will join their party, is believed to have changed his mind following reports linking him to Wahhabism and the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network.
A source close to the popular Islamic scholar told The Malaysian Insider that Dr Mohd Asri reviewed his decision to join the Barisan Nasional (BN) lynch-pin for the moment.
“After considering the reports and allegations that Dr Mohd Asri is following Wahhabism and is linked to the JI group, he has decided that this is not the right time to join Umno... he is disappointed with what has been happening since early this week,” a close associate of the scholar said when contacted.
But the associate said that talks between Dr Mohd Asri and the Umno leadership will continue despite his move not to join the Malay nationalist party.
“The space for talks has not closed yet,” he added.
The Malaysian Insider understands that some 50 others, including Muslim intellectuals and scholars, are due to hand over their membership forms to Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the party’s supreme council meeting in Menara Dato Onn tomorrow.
“Although Dr Mohd Asri won’t join Umno, like what I said earlier, about 50 will join Umno tomorrow when we hand over the application forms.
“We are finalising the matter, there is still some issues to sort out,” the source added.
It is believed that talks are being held to determine the role of the intellectuals and scholars if they join Umno. The original party founded in 1946 had Muslim scholars as members but most left in 1951 to form PAS when the party decided to stick to a Malay nationalist doctrine.
It is also understood that most of those joining Umno tomorrow are academic staff mainly from the Klang Valley with some from outside the area. They are seen as young scholars with progressive thoughts on Syariah and Islamic laws.
Dr Mohd Asri has until now not confirmed or denied a Sunday morning report that he will join Umno, saying in his blog that he is still undecided about joining any political party.
He also hoped that there will not be any speculation on statements issued by other parties on the matter.
“Discussions with the party that made the statement is going on. There won’t be any media statement for the time being,” he added.
Umno executiv secretary Datuk Ab Rauf Yusoh had told The Malaysian Insider last Sunday that a report on Dr Mohd Asri joining the party was true but had asked people to be patient about the matter.
Umno Online had quoted Rauf as saying that Dr Mohd Asri and his followers would join the Dataran Merdeka Umno branch which is under the Bukit Bintang division.
The report also quoted Rauf as saying that their membership will spark confidence among Malays and Bumiputeras in Umno.
But Dr Mohd Asri’s colleagues and friends have said that the scholar should remain as a “neutral intellectual”.
The Malaysian Insider has learnt that a majority of text messages, emails and phone calls to the ex-mufti has asked him not to join any political party. They also said that Dr Mohd Asri should remain as an independent scholar to give his opinions about the faith.