KOTA BELUD, Jan 8 — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi held up Sabah for demonstrating its religious tolerance and harmony after witnessing an imam recite a Muslim prayer during a Christmas open house celebration here today.
The Umno president looked visibly impressed at the sight that took place during the Christmas celebration in Taginambur in the district of Kota Belud, which has a strong Kadazan Dusun Murut demographic group who are largely Christian, though the larger Kadamaian area surrounding it has a sizeable Bajau Sama or land Bajau population whose religion is Islam.
“This is something unique. In the peninsula, this may be a problem. But not here in Sabah. Well done to Sabahans, to Kadamaian, and to Kota Belud,” he said to applause at the Christmas party organised by United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko).
Zahid, who is federal rural and regional development minister, had been invited to attend by Upko president Datuk Ewon Benedick who is also Kadamaian assemblyman.
Zahid reminded everyone not to play up the ethnic and religious differences among Malaysians, but to appreciate and preserve these traits.
“We don’t want politicians, NGOs, leaders or individuals who are too obsessive to come and put our differences between us.
“In Islam, Allah says life has a lot of variety. We should not just get to know, but honour and respect these differences. You have your religion, I have my religion. In order for our religions to be respected, we must respect other religions too,” he said.
Zahid also said that such tolerance and respect would be welcome in the political arena too, where there was a place for differences of opinions and views, as long as the bigger picture of the people’s wellbeing did not come after political interests.
“Petty political issues and such should be dealt with in the best possible manner. It’s impossible for us to agree 100 per cent, impossible to satisfy everyone 100 per cent.
“It’s true that we can have different opinions, different views, but what’s important is to prioritise the interests of the people and not make the people pay a high price due to political differences and political interests,” he said.
He paid tribute to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for prioritising stability in the country.
“Stability should be maintained because it will result in the country’s development through foreign investments, domestic investments that will reduce unemployment, decrease the inflation rate, stabilise prices of goods, and most importantly, ensure the well-being and empowerment of the people. That is the goal,” he said.