Just two weeks ago, few people in Malaysia would have heard of the Arabic term tahaluf siyasi, a tongue-twister even in the Malay language.
Today there are 381,000 entries in Google under 'tahaluf siyasi PAS 2013'. Indeed, that term is causing such a headache in opposition circles it has raised hopes in Umno that the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) may be about to bolt from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance.
While the words simply mean 'political cooperation', they took on huge significance when ulama at PAS' recent annual convention agreed that political cooperation with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) must be examined.
'It is definitely relevant for the tahaluf siyasi with PKR to be examined after several incidents have happened that could weaken PAS,' said its Ulama Council chief Harun Taib on Sept 15.
The conservative senior cleric is known to lean towards working with Umno to strengthen the political position of Malay Muslims. At the two-day convention, the Ulama Council adopted a resolution that concurred with what he said.
A re-look at ties with the third member of PR, the Democratic Action Party, was not mentioned. Some party leaders said the Chinese-based party had not affected PAS politics as much as Datuk Seri Anwar had.
The ulama and its supporters gave examples of how PAS has been weakened: the loss of Kedah state in the last general election, PAS winning fewer parliament seats, and claims that PKR leaders support PAS-taboo causes such as gays and socialist parties. And several top PAS leaders openly supported Mr Anwar, not PAS president Hadi Awang, to be prime minister, should PR win federal power.
With internal PAS elections looming in November, the move at the convention by the clerics started a social media and SMS war among PAS supporters, as some members interpreted the resolution to mean the Islamic party might soon leave PR.