JOHOR BARU, Dec 24 — In a unique Christmas message, the Permaisuri of Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah reminded Malaysians today that everyone has a right to celebrate their own festive holidays.
“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 said, referring to Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar.
The queen consort’s Christmas message, posted on the Johor royal family’s official website yesterday, was based on her current view and also fondly recalled her years spent in a boarding school in England.
She shared her experience as a teenage student where she celebrated Christmas along with her Christian schoolmates while not neglecting her faith as a Muslim.
“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 I kept under my pillow, and the Quran I had brought with me. Both were constant reminders of home and my faith,” she narrated.
The 59-year-old, who now visits the United Kingdom as a tourist, said 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.
Towards the end of her message, Raja Zarith Sofiah said the Sultan of Johor, her family and herself would like to wish everyone celebrating Christmas a happy and memorable time with their families and friends.
In 2016, Raja Zarith Sofiah had expressed her views that such a simple Christmas greeting — one which she grew up with and had never regarded as something that would compromise or devalue her own faith — is now regarded as something so religiously incorrect for Malaysian-Muslims.
Earlier today, the royal couple wished all Christians a Merry Christmas, ahead of the celebrations tomorrow.