The Atheist Republic in Malaysia is under threat, as many know by now. It made national news, international ripples on the internet, and then caught the attention of the government, where the state has been looking to reason.
The Malay Mail Online reported on the call for atheists to be “hunted down.” This was an open statement by a Malaysian Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. Shahidan notes the Federal Constitution does not mention atheists.
At a press conference, he said, “I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups…They actually don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education. They are misled with a new school of thought.”
He made another call — associated with the hunting down of the atheists in the country, presumably by the religious — for the muftis to educate Muslims who chose atheism. That they need to return to the faith rather than stay atheists.
The Friendly Atheist, on Patheos, reported on the reflection from the minister in President about the afterlife:
In the afterlife, we’ll also be questioned if we’ve explained the religion to them.
To state religious leaders and governments, they need to pay attention to this issue. We should do it nicely, so they don’t play victims.
The call is for the search and seizure of atheists, of Malaysian citizens, based on their beliefs with the inclusion of social pressure, especially from the muftis, and in reference to guilt based on supposed supernaturalist judgment from Allah in a purported hereafter. It seems bizarre, but it is the reality.
Imagine if this happened in the reverse case, with the atheist community persecuting religious peoples’ livelihood and lives, Malaysian citizens, based on a dinner photo — with everyone non-provocative and smiling — spread over social media. It doesn’t happen, at least as far as I recall. It is unfair.
Also, this becomes a violation of religious freedom, to believe, or not believe, freely, which is the serious question. Ex-Muslims in the group should be given counseling, was one proposal. Shahidan was also moderately concerned about acting in such a way as for atheists to gain general sympathy.
He noted the glamorization of people in social media, who he called “keyboard warriors.” Atheist Republic founder, Armin Navabi, said, “They (Atheists) are treated like criminals. They are just hanging out and meeting other atheists. Who are they harming?!”
Original Publication in Humanist Voices.