KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim issued a stern warning today against parties he said were using race and religion to promote strife, ahead of a rally this weekend that is organised by groups that suggest the Malays are under siege.

Anwar said his government will “not tolerate the slightest bit” any form of racial instigation and '" continue to uphold the federal constitution" as he pledged to lead a government that is inclusive. The prime minister, however, stopped short of stating if he would stop Sunday's rally.

“We said we are inclusive so any statements that are irresponsible will not be tolerated because we cannot run from the fact that Malaysia must remain peaceful, orderly and is developed by Malay Bumiputera, the Chinese and Indians, ethnicities like the Dayaks, Ibans and Melanaus, the Kadazan-Dusun and others,” he said in a post-Cabinet press conference in Putrajaya.

“As such I would like to stress again that we will not compromise on this. Any effort by any party who tries to instigate or escalate religious or racial tension in this country will not be permitted.

“I have directed all security agencies to be alert because those who feel desperate or threatened will use this sentiment and it is the poor that end up being paid to create disturbance,” he added.

Former two-time prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be one of the key speakers at Sunday’s ‘Malay Proclamation’ rally, organised by Sekretariat Tanah Air, and to be held at the Impiana KLCC hotel.

The rally will discuss “matters surrounding the plight of the Malays”, news portal Free Malaysia Today reported previously.

Anwar also responded to criticism against a programme linked to the Ministry of Youth and Sports that has courted flak from conservative Muslims.

The prime minister said any disagreement should be settled through dialogue, as he panned groups that suggested the programme was part of his government's attempt to proselytise non-Muslim religions to Muslims.

"We must stress that whatever attacks or insults against the unity government we remain steadfast to uphold the Federal Constitution,” he said.

He added that “Islam is the religion of the federation”, but stressed that followers of other faiths are free to practise their religions.

"If there are any disputes it must be defused amicably without wrongful assumptions or prejudices.

"This includes the recent issue of parties visiting the mosques that should have no involvement of the government, but if there was any breach of rules or even rattling the sensitivity of certain races it must be diffused through dialogue," he said.

Anwar's coalition government was again forced to defend itself against accusations that it promotes "religious pluralism" after news surfaced following initiatives by Impact Malaysia – an agency under the Youth and Sports Ministry – to promote mutual understanding and respect about the diverse religions in the country.

Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh has clarified in Parliament that the “Jom Ziarah” initiative that organises visits to various houses of worship did not involve Muslim participants.

Impact Malaysia, the project coordinator, said on March 13 that the “Jom Ziarah” is an event under its “Projek Artikel 11”, an initiative to promote a "more inclusive Malaysia".

It has so far visited a mosque and a gurdwara and is scheduled to visit a church tomorrow and a Hindu temple after that.