PETALING JAYA: A deputy minister’s claim that atheism has no place in Malaysia has drawn the attention of one of the world’s foremost atheists, Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins, who is a biologist and the author of “The God Delusion”, took to Twitter over the weekend to criticise the claim that atheism contravenes Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.
“Words fail me. How do you deal with such prodigies of stupidity and injustice?” he said.
Dawkins, who argues against the idea of a supernatural creator, was responding to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who said last Thursday that in the Malaysian context, freedom of religion did not mean freedom from any religion.
Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, Asyraf said atheism also attacked other religions, which would contravene laws on public order.
The issue of atheism surfaced earlier this year, when the Kuala Lumpur chapter of a group known as the Atheist Republic posted a picture of its members attending a gathering.
This sparked an uproar among some Muslims and led to threats of death and violence against the group on social media.
The government subsequently said it would investigate whether any Muslims had joined the group.
Asyraf said then that 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.
Dawkins’ tweet drew comments from other social media users, many of whom thanked him for making a stand on the matter.
A Malaysian who identified herself as @hazleenmz said she had left Malaysia because of such issues.
“Unfortunately, this is the route Malaysia is taking,” added another user called Christopher Hale. “Christians have been kidnapped. Atheists next?”
HAKAMalaysia said: “Thank you for saying what many Malaysians think but are unable to say out loud.”