Pua: ‘Attack’ on atheism opens new chapter in shrinking rights

tony-pua-atheism-malaysia-1PETALING JAYA: Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has warned that a recent “open attack” by a deputy minister in Parliament in claiming that atheism is unconstitutional opens a new chapter in diminishing the religious rights of ordinary Malaysians.

Pua, who is also DAP publicity secretary said Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who holds the position in the prime minister’s department, was “talking utter rubbish”.

He said the Federal Constitution states that “every person has the right to profess and practise his religion.”

“How in the world did Datuk Asyraf interpret someone having ‘the right to profess’ to everyone ‘must profess’ a religion?” Pua said in a statement today.

On Friday, Asyraf said in the Dewan Rakyat that atheism had no place in Malaysia as it contravened both the constitution and the Rukunegara.

He said that in the Malaysian context, freedom of religion did not mean freedom from any religion.

He added that atheism attacked other religions, which would contravene laws on public order.

To illustrate his point, Pua asked if Asyraf would interpret Article 10 of the constitution that “every citizen has the right to freedom of speech” and “all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms” as meaning that “everyone must speak” and that “everyone cannot refuse to participate in peaceful assembly”.

“Of course not. When someone ‘has the right to profess… his religion’ (under Article 11), it clearly means that he has the freedom of choice to believe in a religion. But it does not at any point compel him or her to adopt a religion,” he said.

Pua also said an atheist or a free-thinker did not by default run afoul of Article 11(4) which prohibits propagating other beliefs to Muslims, by not believing in any religion or participating in religious activities.

“That would be sheer illogical nonsense,” he said. “Unfortunately, propagating illogical nonsense isn’t illegal in Malaysia,” he said, adding that there was now however, an increasing constriction of religious rights and freedom of all Malaysians.

He claimed that the “ruling political elite” was using the issue to strengthen their grip by striking fear in Muslims.

He said they were doing this by focussing on the purported threat of Christianity and were now targeting atheism, as well as taking away the freedom of non-Muslims “one bit at a time”.

On Aug 16, then inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar said the constitution recognised Islam as the official religion and had no provision for atheism.

He also said police would scrutinise the country’s existing laws so appropriate action could be taken should atheists cause anxiety among Muslims.

A week earlier, federal minister Shahidan Kassim made headlines locally and abroad when he said atheists should be “hunted down”, as they were in violation of the constitution.