PETALING JAYA: Civil rights group Bebas today took a deputy minister to task for claiming that atheism violates the Federal Constitution and attacks other religions.
It was responding to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who said in the Dewan Rakyat that atheism had no place in Malaysia.
Bebas said Asyraf’s claim that atheism was unconstitutional, criminal and a “very dangerous” ideology was baseless and irrational.
“It implies that people in this country must belong to a religion or face possible prosecution.
“The selective interpretation of the Federal Constitution that it only guarantees the freedom to worship but not the freedom to not believe, is to encourage religious tyranny in Malaysia,” it said in a statement.
Bebas also slammed Asyraf for threatening the use of shariah and civil laws, as well as national security instruments such as the Sedition Act, against those who practise atheism.
Urging Asyraf to “stop demonising minorities and spreading misinformation”, it said atheists for the most part conducted their lives in an ethical manner because they were upholding their own principles.
“They accept the diversity of opinion, and they are unafraid to debate.
“In general, atheists want to be left alone and not have religious beliefs forced onto them. They should be treated no different than those who belong to a particular religion.”
This is not the first time atheism has come under fire in Malaysia. In August, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim warned of action against a group of Malaysians who were part of the “Atheist Republic” group, following threats on them in the social media.
Asyraf said then that he had instructed the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department to investigate the Atheist Republic chapter to see if any Muslims were involved.
“We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering, and whether they are involved in spreading such views, which can jeopardise the aqidah (faith) of Muslims,” he told Reuters when contacted.
Asyraf said any Muslims found to be in the group would be sent for counselling, while attempts to spread atheist ideas could be prosecuted under existing laws.
However, Bebas disputed the claim that atheism attacked other religions and would contravene laws on public order.
“Atheists are not a a threat. They are your family members, nurses and doctors, teachers, colleagues and neighbours.
“They should have the right to believe what they feel is best for them. After all, there should be no compulsion in religion,” it said.