PETALING JAYA: Everyone has a right to celebrate their own festive holidays, says the Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah.
“Tuanku Sultan Johor (Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar), my family and I would like to wish everyone celebrating Christmas a happy and memorable time with their families and friends.
“And to all Malaysians, peace and unity,” she said in her Christmas message posted on the Johor royal family’s official website on Sunday (Dec 23).
“Instead of seeing shadows when there are none, I feel, as do my husband and our family, that everyone has a right to celebrate their festive holidays," she added.
Raja Zarith Sofiah fondly recalled her years in a boarding school in the United Kingdom, where she celebrated Christmas along with her Christian schoolmates while faithfully practising her Islamic faith.
“The memories have little to do with the Christian religion but more with friendships forged with English girls who welcomed me without questioning my race or faith.
“I also remember being in charge of decorating the Christmas tree in our boarding house not because our housemistress wanted me to stray away from my Muslim faith but because she considered me as one of the more artistic and creative girls under her care.
“She knew about the tasbih (prayer beads) I kept under my pillow, and the Quran I had brought with me. Both were constant reminders of home and my faith,” she said.
Raja Zarith Sofiah added that people of different faiths can respect the celebration of another faith’s festive holiday without losing their own.
“Have I forgotten about Allah and being a Muslim because I am in London during the days before Christmas? The answer is a simple ‘no’.
“As I walk along the streets of London thronged with shoppers buying Christmas gifts for their families, or tourists like me who are enjoying the cold weather and looking at London landmarks, I think how wonderful it is for everyone to share in looking at beautiful lights and hearing melodious Christmas songs being sung by choirs almost at every corner we turn.
“I compare myself here with tourists in Malaysia before Hari Raya when shopping malls are filled with Muslims busy buying Raya clothes. It is really not that different,” she added.