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.
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.