Former Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has plenty of admirers. But that comes with a price - he also has many enemies. Some see him as a threat to the positions they are holding in government-financed agencies like the Yayasan Dakwah Islam (Yadim). Then, some in PAS are nervous of moves by some party elders to woo him to join the party.
In short, there are ulamaks in Umno and PAS who are feeling the heat because of his popularity. The progressive and liberal set like Zainah Anwar and Marina Mahathir openly support him and today they were in court to lend their support. The more conventional Muslim groups, including the Association of Syarie Lawyers, want him stopped. They find his ideas too progressive for them. To them, it's radical, not progressive.
But Dr Asri can be sure he has few friends in JAIS or the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department. JAIS comes under the purview of Selangor PAS chief Dr Hassan Ali. Dr Asri has complained that he has been unable to get permits to preach in Selangor, a requirement for those outside the state. He has not named names but insinuated that there is a "hidden hand" behind the arrest.
He has also openly accused JAIS of being biased but the latter has rejected the accusation. MB Khalid Ibrahim has issued a middle-of-the-road statement, without wanting to commit himself to any stand except to acknowledge that JAIS has the power.
Despite being wooed by Umno and PAS, Dr Asri is said to have been advised by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to stay neutral. He has accompanied Dr Mahathir on trips overseas and is said to have sought the advice of the former premier regularly. Read Joceline Tan's analysis on Asri.