(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — The recent spate of unprecedented church attacks has prompted Pakatan Rakyat ideologue Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to push for a state inter-faith advisory council, to discuss touchy religious issues without resorting to the courts or the government’s executive powers for solutions.
The former Cabinet minister also accused Umno and ruling Barisan Nasional coalition (BN) of arrogance for refusing to discuss or promote dialogue over inter-religious issues, pointing particularly to Umno leaders whom he said feared being seen as weak if there were such a dialogue.
“What is wrong with a state-funded mechanism or council to discuss complicated and sensitive religious issues, that are the source dispute, rationally and behind closed doors,” Zaid wrote in his weblog today.
It is understood that the PKR bureau that met on Saturday has endorsed the proposal. PKR’s Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally PAS has also said it will hold inter-faith dialogues to find solutions to religious issues that have divided the country’s 27 million population.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon confirmed yesterday the Najib Administration have started private inter-faith dialogues in the wake of the Dec 31 High Court ruling that allowed Catholic weekly Herald to use the word “Allah” to describe the Christian God in their Bahasa Malaysia edition.
But Koh ruled out public dialogues as the time was not right. “I think let’s take it one step at a time,” he had said.
The BN government had previously rejected the idea of an inter-faith council for fear of provoking the anger of the Malay-Muslim vote — the bedrock of its support since Merdeka in 1957.
Zaid said the spate of church attacks and previous sources of religious tension stemming from conversions of Hindus to Muslims showed that Umno and BN were only good at calling for unity but have not taken serious follow-up action to solve the problems.