IGP gets flak over warning to atheists


Source: FMT News 

PETALING JAYA: An Islamic think tank has asked Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar to explain his warning to atheists against “creating uneasiness” among Muslims with their activities.

Speaking to FMT, Islamic Renaissance Front director Ahmad Farouk Musa said Khalid was going beyond his jurisdiction. He said the main duty of the police is to maintain order, not to encroach on personal liberties.

“Khalid must explain what ‘creating uneasiness’ means,” he said. “If the atheists are enjoying their freedom to be free of religion without impinging on the rights of others to practise their religions, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

In giving his warning yesterday, Khalid said the Federal Constitution recognised Islam as the official religion and had no provision for atheism. He said police would scrutinise the existing laws to enable appropriate action to be taken should atheists cause anxiety among Muslims.

Last week, federal minister Shahidan Kassim made headlines locally and abroad when he said atheists should be “hunted down”. He claimed they were in violation of the Federal Constitution.Farouk argued that there was nothing in the constitution which said a citizen of Malaysia couldn’t be an atheist, adding that it was important to let people who believed in God and those who didn’t to coexist in harmony.

Recently, Yayasan 1Malaysia chairman Chandra Muzaffar, who has been pushing for the Rukunegara principles to be made a preamble to the Federal Constitution, said the national ideology’s principle of “belief in God” did not imply that there was no room in the country for atheists or agnostics.

He noted that Malaysia was not the only country advocating belief in God.

He said both Indonesia’s Pancasila and the United States’ Declaration of Independence made references to God, but neither country denied atheists the rights enjoyed by other citizens.

“The right to believe in God also means the right to not believe in God,” he said. “If God doesn’t coerce anyone into believing in God, then why do human beings feel they have a right to coerce another human being to believe in God?”

Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen said Khalid shouldn’t alarm the public with such a warning and instead focus on fighting crime.
“The reality is that this entire issue began with a picture on social media,” he said. “We don’t really know whether the people in the picture are actually atheists or just there for a gathering.”

He was referring to a picture posted on the Atheist Republic Facebook group which sparked concerns over the presence of a local club for atheists.

News reports have said Putrajaya would find out whether Muslims had joined the Kuala Lumpur Atheist Club.

“There’s no real information and it would be a misuse of resources to launch a witch hunt,” Paulsen said.

He urged the police to focus their attention on crimes rather than social media postings, which he said tended to hype up certain issues.

Secular activist group Bebas said it was wrong for anyone to broadly imply that atheists were troublemakers or wrongdoers.

“Neither the law nor the constitution requires a person to have a religion to be a citizen of this country,” said a spokesman for the group. “Atheists just want to get on with their lives without having the institutions of religion being imposed on them or interfering in their personal lives.

“After all, there should be no compulsion in religion.”