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Atheism is unconstitutional, says Malaysian deputy minister

KUALA LUMPUR ― A Malaysian deputy minister on Thursday (Nov 23) claimed that atheism is a “very dangerous” ideology that goes against the country’s Federal Constitution.

Atheism is unconstitutional, says Malaysian deputy minister

Malaysia's Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki says any individual who practices and spreads atheism can be punished for going against the Constitution. Photo: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR ― A Malaysian deputy minister on Thursday (Nov 23) claimed that atheism is a “very dangerous” ideology that goes against the country’s Federal Constitution.

Mr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the ideology also goes against Malaysia’s Rukunegara that prescribes “Believe in God” as one of its tenets.

The Rukunegara is a set of national principles formulated after the May 13 racial riots in 1969 to uphold Malaysia’s diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Mr Asyraf alleged that the freedom of religion in the Federal Constitution — which guarantees the freedom to worship — does not include the freedom to not believe.

“We have to understand that in the Malaysian context, our Federal Constitution states that the freedom of religion does not mean freedom from any religion because that is unconstitutional,” he said.

“This means we cannot incite someone to leave a religion or promote not having a religion. We cannot order or promote the belief of not having a religion — that is against the Federal Constitution.”

Despite the deputy minister’s assertion, Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution only states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.”

Meanwhile, Article 11(1) states that “Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and propagate it”, subject to clause Article 11(4) that prohibits the propagation to Muslims.

Mr Asyraf, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, said the government can enact legal provisions it deemed necessary to prevent atheism from being practiced, especially when it is considered to be a threat to the sanctity of Islam.

“As for the non-Muslims, it (atheism) also goes against the laws of public order and morality,” he said.

“For instance, anyone who tries to spread ideologies and doctrines that promote atheism and similar beliefs, which tarnish the sanctity of other religions, can be charged under the Sedition Act.”

In August, a photo of a gathering by the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic caused an uproar among some in the Muslim community after the meeting was highlighted by pro-Islamist blogs, leading to violent and death threats against the group’s members on social media.

Atheist Republic has over a million followers and supporters on social media, with hundreds of “consulates” worldwide including in neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines.

Mr Asyraf said on Thursday that Putrajaya, together with Internet regulator Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, have reported to Facebook the existence of groups spreading atheism, but the company would not block them.

This was because the groups’ accounts did not contravene any of Facebook’s rules and regulations.

Last year, Malaysia was rated as “grave violators” of the rights and treatment of the non-religious in the Freedom of Thought Report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The report highlighted that it is illegal to advocate secularism or church-state separation in Malaysia, or such advocacy is suppressed; while identifying as an atheist or non-religious is either illegal or unrecognised.

Meanwhile, an opposition Member of Parliament blamed Putrajaya for the rise of atheism in the country.

Mr Khalid Samad from Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) said the government’s “corrupt actions” and use of religion as a political tool were reasons why people lost their faith.

“People leave religion when they see that it is being used as a tool by a government that is corrupt. People see that religion is no longer relevant nor does it bring good to the people, and because of this, the young are disputing religion,” he said. AGENCIES


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