Social media is flooded with images and videos of Terengganu PAS youth members marching through the streets armed with swords, shields, body armour, and bows and arrows believed to have taken place in Setiu, Terengganu.
The march was believed to be part of a two-day PAS Youth meeting called “Himpunan Pemuda Islam Terengganu” (Himpit).
According to The Star, Terengganu PAS Youth chief Mohd Harun Esa said the programme has been an annual event since 1991 and is a gathering of the Islamist party’s state youth machinery.
They claimed that there are no elements of violence or provocation, and it has long been a custom for the local PAS Youth division to bring their “replicas” to the parade.
Terengganu PAS Youth also defended their march, stating it was akin to annual cosplay activities and that it was never intended to cause violence.
Raised eyebrows among Malaysians
However, the display of replica weapons has sparked concern among Malaysians, with many taking to social media to criticize the parade.
Mohd Hisyamuddin Ghazali, a Save Kelantan activist, raised doubts about the intention behind the event where youth leaders were spotted parading with imitation weapons.
He took to Facebook to question whether the parade was a precursor to war, as the activities seemed to primarily involve gathering PAS leaders.
The parade’s warlike posture received criticism from the public and Terengganu Pakatan Harapan and the MCA.
“Wrong image of Islam”
In response to the controversy, religious affairs minister Na’im Mokhtar says it could send a wrong image of Islam and the country.
He issued a statement urging Muslims not to join the “warlike” parade. He called on PAS to promote a message of peace and unity, rather than one of aggression and violence.
“I was informed about a youth assembly programme that involved a parade where the Islamic religious symbols were displayed. The parade created various perceptions and frustrations in society,”
“In my opinion, parading in such a way is needless and could send a false impression of Islam and the country.”