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Atheists’ gathering incurs the anger of authorities in Malaysia

Atheists’ gathering incurs the anger of authorities in Malaysia

Just days after the picture above was posted on the Atheist Republic Facebook page, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister in charge of religious affairs said he he had instructed the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department to investigate the local Atheist Republic chapter to see if any Muslims were involve

According to this International Humanist and Ethical Union report, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk said:

We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering, and whether they are involved in spreading such views, which can jeopardize the aqidah (faith) of Muslims

The people pictured attended a recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur, and are now reportedly receiving death threats.

This report shows a number of angry reactions to the Facebook post.

Atheist Republic, which has more than 1.7 million followers around the world, is associated with local “consulate” groups that holdi meetups for members in larger cities around the world.

Asyraf Wajdi Dusuk

Dusuk added:

We need to use the soft approach [with apostates]. Perhaps they are ignorant of the true Islam, so we need to engage them and educate them on the right teachings.

He also said that ex-Muslims found to be part of the atheist gathering would be given counselling, while anyone found spreading atheist ideas could be prosecuted.

Yesterday another Minister, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, speaking at a prss conference at Parliament, threatened a manhunt.

The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights … I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups.

Andrew Copson, above, President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), said:

We deplore this senseless police investigation. And we condemn in the strongest terms the extremely dangerous, provocative language coming from government officials.

The concept of ‘apostasy’ as a moral or criminal injunction is a pernicious, self-interested norm of religion, obviously designed to dissuade people from questioning and revising beliefs. It contradicts the basic human rights of all to freedom of thought and belief, and it has absolutely no priority over the individual freedom to hold non-religious views, or to define ourselves as atheists or anything else.

The Minister who says atheism goes against human rights is absolutely wrong. Non-religious people have freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of association, just like the religious, and it is his talk of “hunting” human beings simply for joining together in celebration of their views and values which represents a grave human rights violation.

Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, said the group’s gatherings caused no harm to the public and were not considered a threat in other countries.

They (atheists) are treated like criminals. They are just hanging out and meeting other atheists. Who are they harming?!.

The IHEU Freedom of Thought Report entry for Malaysia has for several years drawn attention to the possibility of “apostates” facing legal consequences.

Malaysian states which have state-wide laws on Islamic affairs do not allow Muslims to formally renounce Islam, who may receive sentences of counselling, fines or jail. Ethnic Malays in particular are subjected to strict state controls over an enforced, homogenous religious identity.

The state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu passed laws in 1993 and 2002, respectively, making apostasy a capital crime. This is despite the fact that apostasy is not a federal crime in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and the states laws may in fact contradict federal law – as well of course as violating the rights to freedom of belief and freedom of expression.

The report does not record any recent convictions or death sentences in Malaysia.

22 responses to “Atheists’ gathering incurs the anger of authorities in Malaysia”

  1. Broga says:

    “We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering, and whether they are involved in spreading such views, which can jeopardize the aqidah (faith) of Muslims”

    The panic shines through. Their wonderful religion also expresses its response to any who challenge their beliefs: slaughter them. The impotent fury of the Muslims upset by the prospect of reason impinging on their faith is a pleasure to see.

  2. Italian Scallion says:

    All these muslims ever talk about is killing. Is that what their god allah teaches them? I love to see truth coming before stupid religious beliefs.

  3. Rob Andrews says:

    “We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering,”

    Why would any Muslims attend in the first place? I guess they’re concerned with potential apostates. So I guess it alright if you’re born atheist–that is into an atheist family. Hence not inculcated with any beliefs.

  4. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    “We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering,”

    Nope, no muslims there though there may have been the odd ex-muslim.

  5. John the Drunkard says:

    It is argued, seriously, that everyone on earth is ‘really’ a Muslim. Some requiring more ‘re-education’ than others.

    Off the top of my head, I think death threats and violence were in play when an Islamic scholar suggested that Mohamed’s parents weren’t Muslim before his birth…

  6. StephenJP says:

    “Perhaps they are ignorant of the true Islam”. On the contrary: they are all too conscious of what “true Islam”really represents.

    Brave people. All strength to them.

  7. 1859 says:

    In one way the reaction of the religious bigots will be beneficial as it shows to any thinking person just how stupid and irrelevant, in the modern world, their ideas have become. However, if the fanaticism becomes real and they start locking atheists up, that’s a different matter. I can’t, myself, see that happening as the outcry would cause such an anti-muslim backlash it would be the biggest recruiting advertisement for atheism in the country.

  8. RussellW says:

    1859
    You’re being rather optimistic. Malaysia is dominated by an ethnic Malay-Muslim oligarchy, they won’t give a rat’s about any backlash.

  9. 1859 says:

    @RW: You’re right, I try to see the candle in the dark – I’m hopelessly naive, can’t help it. I read reports like these and feel a great sense of hope that finally, after wading through the darkest and deepest shit for thousands of years,the rational mind of humans is beginning to win through the obscurity of superstition – like I said, I’m hopelessly naive.

  10. Michael Glass says:

    The fact that atheists are now organising in Malaysia demonstrates the power of rational thought and its spread through the internet.

  11. RussellW says:

    1859

    Well, there is a candle in the dark, however it’s very easily snuffed out. I’m extremely pessimistic about Islam and any prospects for progress in Muslim majority nations. Turkey, the former shining example of ‘secularism’is probably now lost to Islamism.

    Although the West managed to escape from the dead hand of theocracy, there’s no reason to assume that Muslim-majority nations will follow the same path. Perhaps the transformation was due to the ideology of Christianity itself or our Greco-Roman heritage, who knows?

    40 years ago when Muslim countries appeared to be modernising, I would have agreed with you, not these days.

  12. Broga says:

    Russell: The UK has a long way to go. We have a government with a Christian PM opening a large number of faith schools at tax payers expenses. The Head of any school can make a big difference. I’m delighted with my grandchildren’s school. They are encouraged to think, told that saying they don’t know is acceptable and have a regular philosophy question suggested by pupils to discuss. A recent one was “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

    Of course, we also have the endless bore-ins by the BBC which behaves as if we all want to hear the endless patronising vicars they foist on us.

  13. Stephen Mynett says:

    Broga, you could add a Christian PM who has so far refused to condemn an upcoming number of executions in Saudi Arabia, just as the religion-using Trump has also failed to do.

    I am never sure how religious a lot of these people are, if at all but the politicians know that religion is a great way of controlling people and will continue to use it regardless of the consequences. After all it is better to have sectarians fighting each other than people joining together to take on the despots.

  14. Anthony Baker says:

    See … evolution is real … the nasty primitive shitehawk with the stupid hat is clearly a primitive antecedent of the smart guy in the cardi.

  15. RussellW says:

    Broga,

    Australia also has a long way to go, faith schools also sponge off the taxpayers. Regrettably, a small clique of religious bigots has our one-seat majority conservative PM by the short and curlies. I certainly wasn’t claiming that the struggle is over, however, at least in the West, the tide is running our way.

    Speaking of interesting questions. I was educated at a Presbyterian school and during religious instruction the claim that God made the universe was presented to the class. Of course one smart-arse asked the obvious question–“Well, who made God?” It’s a real killer in my opinion.

  16. 1859 says:

    Scrutinising the above photo shows that there is not one grey-haired atheist in KL – there can’t be one in the picture who’s over 30. And this might support Michael Glass’s point that the internet – the forum of the techno-savvy young – is indeed opening more young minds to other ideas than ever before. I recall a statistic I heard when it was announced that The God Delusion had finally been translated into Arabic and published online as a free pdf download. The country that topped the list for thousands of downloads in the first few weeks was Saudi Arabia. So, maybe the candle in the dark shines brighter than we think – or maybe we shouldn’t be searching for the candle while wearing sun glasses.

  17. Broga says:

    Russell: I have tried out the “Who made God?” And it should be a killer question. The Christian I was talking with said we needed God to create the world and the cosmos and said that I had no explanation whereas she had. My response was “Who created God?” Her response was “God didn’t need to be created as he was always there.”

    I suggested that, in that case, the cosmos didn’t need to be created as it was always there. If she could claim God didn’t need to be created I could claim the cosmos didn’t need to be created. She wasn’t having that. She said “God is special.” Bloody hell.

  18. Gui says:

    “Broga, you could add a Christian PM who has so far refused to condemn an upcoming number of executions in Saudi Arabia, just as the religion-using Trump has also failed to do.”

    Well, money and, specially, petrol, talks louder than any shaddow of moral values, integrity and justice. Right?

  19. […] This is the second time in this week that Malaysia has become embroiled in controversy. We reported yesterday that the authorities vowed to hunt down people  who took attended an atheist meeting in Kuala Lumpur. […]

  20. RussellW says:

    1859

    Let’s hope. However I’m convinced that atheists will be an endangered species in Muslim majority countries for generations. The Internet isn’t immune to censorship .

    Broga,

    Yes, I’ve had similar conversations on numerous occasions.

  21. Barry Duke says:

    Vanity Unfair tried to post this comment but had trouble doing so so I am posting it on his behalf:
    Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, speaking at a press conference at Parliament, threatened a manhunt.
    The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights … I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups.

    http://www.agc.gov.my/agcportal/uploads/files/Publications/FC/Federal%20Consti%20(BI%20text).pdf

    Malaysian Federal Constitution

    Religion of the Federation
    . (1) Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.

    Equality
    8. (1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
    (2) Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender in any law…
    (5) This Article does not invalidate or prohibit—
    (a) any provision regulating personal law;
    (b) any provision or practice restricting office or employment connected with the affairs of any religion, or of an institution managed by a group professing any religion, to persons professing that religion;

    Freedom of speech, assembly and association
    10. (1) Subject to Clauses (2), (3) and (4)—
    (a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
    (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;
    (c) all citizens have the right to form associations.
    (2) Parliament may by law impose—
    (a) on the rights conferred by paragraph (a) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of…public order or morality…
    (b) on the right conferred by paragraph (b) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of …public order;
    (c) on the right conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of …public order or morality.
    (3) Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) may also be imposed by any law relating to …education.

    Freedom of religion
    11. (1) Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.
    (4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federal law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
    (5) This Article does not authorize any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

    Rights in respect of education
    12. (1) Without prejudice to the generality of Article 8, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion…
    (2) Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for the education of children in its own religion, and there shall be no discrimination on the ground only of religion in any law relating to such institutions or in the administration of any such law; [my emphasis] but it shall be lawful for the Federation or a State to establish or maintain or assist in establishing or maintaining Islamic institutions or provide or assist in providing instruction in the religion of Islam and incur such expenditure as may be necessary for the purpose.
    (3) No person shall be required to receive instruction in or to take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion other than his own.
    (4) For the purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

    Insofar as the Constitution does not directly mention atheism I suppose that he is correct. However, I would argue that Clause 10 (Freedom of speech, assembly..) gives protection to people professing atheism. It remains open to the federal government to circumvent this right by citing public order (people will be so insulted by any evidence of atheist thought that there will be riots) or morality (all atheists are immoral).
    Similarly, Clause 8 (Equality) prohibits discrimination on the ground of religion. Discrimination against atheists would be on the ground of religion.
    Islam is specially protected in the Constitution.
    No constitution is perfect. In this case, a few “or none” additions would be a help in ensuring equality of treatment. Glass house admission: the UK would be better with a proper, written constitution, just in case.
    In the meantime, are there any incitement to violence laws in Malaysia?