HARI Raya Aidil Fitri should be the time for Malaysians of different ethnic and religious backgrounds to promote integration and unity as they attend the Hari Raya open houses.
The increasing cost of living and weak purchasing power do not dampen the spirit of Hari Raya as Muslims celebrate it more prudently.
There is still a lot to be thankful for after the month-long fasting because Malaysians are fortunate to live in a peaceful nation, despite its fair share of problems, unlike those in war-torn countries.
This festive occasion should further deepen the harmonious relations among all Malaysians in the true spirit of 1Malaysia as all religions encourage their followers to do good, to be courteous, humble, honest and respectful, and above all, not to hurt one another, even unintentionally.
We are now halfway through 2016 and this Hari Raya is the perfect time for us to take stock of our social and racial unity. Malaysian society, with the exception of Sarawak and Sabah, appears to be divided along the lines of race and religion, even though the country has enjoyed five decades of independence.
Thus, it is timely for us to renew our aspirations to nurture the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness, based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds.
We should not allow the social fabric which has been keeping the nation together since independence to be torn apart by extremism, in whatever form.
This is the time to expedite the introduction of cross-cultural subjects in schools and educational institutions to foster unity among students in the country. Children in pre-schools and primary schools can be moulded into not looking at things through race-coloured lenses. If we are successful at this, we can bridge the interaction gap between students of different ethnicities, cultures and religions at tertiary level.
This Hari Raya should also be the time for political leaders to cease politicking and focus on the issues at hand, especially the housing needs and the impact of escalating cost of living on the middle and lower income groups as well as the urban poor.
Undertake efforts to reduce crime and beef up the nation’s security, especially at the borders and Eastern Sabah.
I wish all Muslims “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri” and let us all embrace our differences and respect our diversity, in the spirit of 1Malaysia.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE