30 NOVEMBER 2017
The right to freedom of expression, as protected under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, is accompanied by both the implicit and legal responsibility to exercise that right responsibly and in ways that do not disrupt the peace and harmony of our Malaysian society. In a country like Malaysia, where all religious faiths coexist and are respected, the Atheist Republic movement has decided that it should be free to malign and dishonour these faiths in the name of freedom of expression. They are gravely mistaken.
Atheism, unless they are willing to admit otherwise, is not a religion; it has no rituals, no obligations, no places of worship and no practices. It does not qualify for the protections afforded to religious communities. An Atheist can be an Atheist privately, and there is nothing in Atheism that requires him or her to be otherwise. What the Atheist Republic movement appears to have adopted, however, is Evangelical Atheism. They demand the right to preach against the Theistic belief that runs through every religious community in Malaysia. At this point, it ceases to be a religious issue. If one wishes to reject belief in God privately, he or she is free to do so; but when one begins to preach against religion in a country like Malaysia, what they are rejecting is not just belief in God, but rather the entire diverse cultural foundation of the country. They are rejecting their responsibility to respect what their fellow Malaysians hold sacred. It is no longer a matter of being anti-religious; it is a matter of being antisocial.
Furthermore, according to Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation. The active promotion of Atheism is therefore essentially an anti-Constitutional endeavour that disrupts the peace and harmony within the religious communities in Malaysia, which should not qualify as protected speech. Quite the contrary; Evangelical Atheism in a multi-faith society like Malaysia should be categorized as Hate Speech. It constitutes an attack on the beliefs of every community in the country, as well as an attack on the mechanics of the Federal Constitution itself.
There is no doubt that the Atheist Republic movement would very much like to be suppressed by the state so they can claim that their rights are being denied and so they can rally the support of liberals around the world to demonise the government. This itself reveals their essentially subversive agenda. They are not interested in being free to be Atheist, for they indeed have that freedom already in the privacy of their respective homes; Atheism has not been made illegal. What they want is the freedom to denigrate the beliefs of everyone else. A minority group should be given accommodations to ensure they are protected from prejudice, and everyone would agree about that. However, they should not be accommodated to such an extent that their own prejudice against the majority should be protected; and Atheists are indeed prejudiced against the overwhelming majority of Malaysian citizens who, as a whole, embrace religion.
Evangelical Atheism should be exposed for what it is: as assault on the culture, traditions, and cohesion of Malaysian society, and worse off, an affront to the Constitution of the country.
JOINT STATEMENT BY:
Azril Mohd Amin
Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA)
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA) is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process.