For Immediate Release: November 27, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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The government of Malaysia must stop fomenting hostility toward its atheist citizens, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) warned today, following comments by a Malaysian high official claiming that atheism is a “threat” and “seditious.”
Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Malaysia in charge of Islamic affairs, told Parliament that it is “unconstitutional” for Malaysians to “spread ideologies that incite people to leave a religion or profess no religion at all.” Asyraf asserted that the national government was authorized to “draw up any legal provisions necessary to prevent such beliefs and doctrines, which is deemed to be a threat to the sanctity of Islam.”
“Anyone who tries to spread ideologies and doctrines that promote atheism and similar beliefs, which tarnish the sanctity of other religions, can be charged under the Sedition Act,” he said.
“We hear almost every day from atheists and secularists in majority-Muslim countries who are terrified for their lives, dealing with suffocating persecution and death threats, and we do all we can to help as many of them as possible,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “The comments made by this Malaysian official have put innocent people in danger simply for raising legitimate questions about ingrained religious beliefs.”
To help bring to safety secularist writers and activists who have been targeted by religious extremists, CFI launched the Secular Rescue program, which has now helped relocate or provide alternative assistance to dozens of people from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq.
“Words fail me. How do you deal with such prodigies of stupidity and injustice?” tweeted evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins, a member of CFI’s board of directors and founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, now a division of CFI.
“Atheism is only ‘seditious’ if Malaysia considers itself a theocracy,” said Blumner. “But as an ostensibly secular state and a member of the global community, Malaysia’s responsibility is to uphold the fundamental rights of its people, not persecute its religious minorities.”
The Center for Inquiry has previously directed the world’s attention to Malaysia’s persecution of nonbelievers, when Blumner addressed the UN Human Rights Council in September in Geneva. Responding to another Malaysian official’s suggestion that ex-Muslims should be “hunted down vehemently,” Blumner said, “There is no room for this kind of religious persecution in a world community that honors freedom of conscience.”