KUALA LUMPUR - The decision by Pas-led Kelantan government to lift a 20-year ban on women from entering Quran recital contests was seen as a sign that the party is pushing to win more women's votes in the upcoming general election.
Political analyst from Universiti Sains Malaysia Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk said the decision was made as the Islamic party needs to portray a "gentler image" to accommodate its secular partners, DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
"A lot of factors are at work and we don't know all of their real intentions in lifting the ban.
"But we can be sure that Pas wants to get the support from more women in the coming general elections ."
Echoing Azeem, Prof Madya Dr Azizuddin Mohd Sani of University Utara Malaysia said the party must had concluded that it needed to be seen as being more moderate to get the women's support.
"The ban has been there for the past 20 years, so why the sudden change? I am sure this is politically motivated," said Azizuddin.
He said the decision was made due to changes within the party, with more presence of leaders with professional background.
"These professionals are the ones who influenced the current political approach of the party, which was to make it more moderate and not be seen as being radical Associate Prof Ahmad Nidzamuddin Sulaiman from Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia said the move was a political gimmick to showcase Pas as embracing liberalism.
"It seems that Pas has softened itself on Islamic issues. I think this is part of a political gimmick He, however, said moves such as fielding non-Muslim candidates and lifting the ban on women from entering Quran recital contests would cause dissatisfaction among the conservative group in the party.
"It seems like Pas now has a split personality. In the end, it will only create confusion among their grassroots supporters."
On Monday, Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who introduced the ban in 1990 after Pas took control of the state government, said women could now take part in the contests from next year.
He said his change of heart on the matter was due to the numerous requests made by the people.
The Pas-led Kelantan government had imposed the ban on grounds that the women's voice was considered to be part of their aurat (body) and, therefore, must not be displayed in public.
Nik Aziz had, while explaining the lifting of the ban, said when it was enforced, there had been rampant sinful activities in Kelantan, but now the situation had improved.
Kelantan has been imposing strict laws for women, such as making it compulsory for supermarkets to have separate checkout counters for women and men, and women models wearing headscarves on billboards.