An inter-faith council to deal with religious issues is being mooted in multi-religious Malaysia and an ethnic Indian leader has said it should be constituted “before it is too late”.

The country witnessed eight attacks on churches earlier this month following a high court verdict that upheld the right of a magazine published by the Catholic Church to carry the word “Allah” on its masthead.

The idea has been mooted by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyuddin Yassin and Sunday it was endorsed by Senator Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in the prime minister’s department.

“There are various ethnic groups in the country and if everybody understands each other’s sensitivities, then there won’t be any misunderstanding,” Baharom was quoted in The Star as saying.

Baharom, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, said he supported the idea for such a council as it would help cement a sense of mutual understanding over religious matters.

He hoped that in future, any religious matter would be discussed at such a council before it was dragged to court.

National Unity Panel member Ramon Navaratnam welcomed deputy prime minister’s proposal to form an inter-faith council and hoped the body could be set up “before it was too late”.

He said national stability had been seriously threatened by the recent attacks on churches and this problem must be nipped in the bud.

“The failure to form this council will reflect the government’s inability to lead in times of crisis and discourage support for national unity and good governance,” he said.

Navaratnam also proposed that the posts of chairman and deputy chairman in the inter-faith council be assumed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Baharom respectively, adding that the panel had been pushing for such a council to be set up for “a long time”.

“The time for talking and rhetoric is over. We must face reality,” he said.

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