HOUSEWIFE Normah Yusof is used to getting messages promoting halal products on her smartphone but a recent graphic disgusted her.
The Bahasa Malaysia graphic read “Boycott Chinese-DAP products” in red capital letters against a black background. A smaller sub-heading read: “Kasi lunyai semua kedai kedai Cina DAP” (Let’s bankrupt Chinese-DAP owned shops).
Political analysts said Normah is a typical target for religious and racial rhetoric, as political parties, such as Umno and PAS, ramp up the psychological war in the run-up to the general election speculated to be this year.
However, some PAS leaders are already warning that such campaigns can backfire on the Islamist party, especially for its lawmakers, who were elected by significant portions of non-Muslims in the last general election.
“To all PAS leaders, I humbly hope that you train our members not to say things which can be interpreted as insults or as derogatory to the Chinese community,” Selangor lawmaker Halimah Ali said.
In the 13th general election, Halimah and 14 other PAS state legislators benefitted from droves of non-Muslim votes.
“If there are issues, such as that of Nanyang Siang Pau, then let it be specific to that. Do not lump everyone in one basket,” said Halimah, who is Selat Klang assemblyman.
“There are many Chinese who do not have issues with Islam or PAS,” said Halimah, who also heads PAS’s national unity bureau.
PAS and Umno have gone on the attack against DAP, branding the Chinese-majority, social democratic party as anti-Islam and anti-Malay.
In going after the DAP, they hope to tar its partners in the Pakatan Harapan coalition, which in an had won the popular vote in the 13th general election.
Umno hopes to create the perception among Malays that the four-party PH is being led by the DAP, playing on their fears of being ruled by the minority Chinese.
Umno leaders, such as Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, warn Malays that DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang will be prime minister if PH wrests control of Putrajaya from Barisan Nasional.
PAS has also upped its vitriol against DAP after the latter opposed its parliamentary bill to amend a law that would enhance punishments for shariah offences.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, who carried the bill called RUU355, scathingly called the DAP “a seed from the crap” of the Singaporean People’s Action Party.
When the Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau published a caricature of Hadi and parliamentary speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia as monkeys, PAS activists mobbed its offices, demanding an apology.
Mohamad Hisomuddin Bakar of the think-tank Ilham Centre said such racial vitriol can have an impact on rural Malay voters whose access to alternative information is limited.
“Urban voters are savvier and can spot such rhetoric as a tactic to divert their attention from more pressing issues,” said Hisomuddin.
For Normah, the housewife, the anti-DAP graphic was extreme and she did not hesitate to delete it.
“This is rubbish. Do they think people are really that stupid?”