MELAKA, Malaysia -- Israel and its allies are challenging the efforts to maintain peace and harmony in Jerusalem as demanded by the world community, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

He said the fact was that the world community wanted peace and harmony to be maintained in Jerusalem, instead it was challenged by Israel by the plan to move its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"The United Nations held an emergency session where the proposal to reject Jerusalem as Israel's new capital was accepted by 128 countries, which shows that the world community wants peace and harmony in practising the various religion.

"However, this small country (Israel) is challenging the rights of Muslims, Christians to be there (in Jerusalem)," he said in his speech at the 2017 Malaysian Christmas Open House held at the Proclamation of Independence Memorial, Bandar Hilir, here last night.

Also present were Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, ministers in the Prime Minister's Department Joseph Kurup and Dr Shahidan Kassim, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Wira Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, together with more than 8,000 visitors including local and foreign tourists.

Ahmad Zahid said the leaders of the Catholic community had also participated in the recent rally in Putrajaya to protest against Israel's move to turn Jerusalem as its new capital, clearly showing that the multiracial society in the country understood the importance of peace and harmony.

Hence, he said Malaysians, especially the younger generation, had to maintain the peace, harmony, love and spirit of belonging that had been enjoyed by the country for so long.

Harmony is hard to achieve and yet it remains as the pillar of our people's unity, this is unique to Malaysia and we should all be grateful for maintaining the peace and harmony, he said.

He said despite differences in opinion, religion and background, Islam had taught everyone to respect each other and this had been the strength for all Malaysians for a long time.

We must learn to respect others and their respective faiths so that others will respect us and our faith, he said.

Ahmad Zahid said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had managed to maintain the peace and security, and it was the responsibility of all Malaysians to continue to defend it.