The coalition government has never set aside the development agenda for Muslims and the Malays, says Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said the government had always defended Islam as the official religion, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, the special rights of the Malays, and Bahasa Melayu as the national language.
"I’m not just trying to defend the government leadership, but the fact remains that there is no compromise when it comes to these four... those are the fundamentals on which the unity government was formed.
"The government has also never ignored the rights of other races and religions.
"Our agenda has never sidestepped these four principles in the constitution. I’m not campaigning here, but I am sharing what is truly coming from my heart as I have never shared this with the public," Zahid said at an event in Gua Musang yesterday.
Yet, he said, the government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was still accused of setting aside the Muslim and Malay agenda.
"Anwar is being accused of neglecting Islam, of not being concerned with religious schools, maahad tahfiz, but the truth is he (Anwar) made efforts to provide allocations (for the development of Muslims and the Malays) through the 2023 budget, a total of RM1.5 billion," he said.
Zahid said although he wasn’t the religious affairs minister, his commitment to the development of Muslims was his priority.
The rural and regional development minister said among the plans being implemented was the provision of opportunities to "huffaz" from registered maahad tahfiz schools to further their studies at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) centres.
"There are over 3,000 TVETs nationwide and what I did was to get many of them to pursue TVET… now many of them (huffaz) are engineers and so on, with some even working abroad," he said, adding that this effort was through collaborations with various parties, including Majlis Amanah Rakyat or Mara.
He said the rural and regional development ministry had also transformed kindergartens under the Community Development Department into tahfiz kindergartens to instill spiritual and moral values among preschoolers.
"Matters concerning religion and spirituality must be instilled in our children from their preschool years as early education is most important," he said.