Malaysia under spotlight in freedom of thought index after atheist ‘hunt’


Source: Malay Mail Online

Reuters pic

In this year’s Freedom of Thought Report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Malaysia was given a score of 4.5, with 5 being the worst possible score. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — Malaysia has been singled out and listed among seven countries worldwide that practise “active persecution” of the non-religious in a global index released Tuesday, following a so-called “hunt” against atheists starting earlier this year.

In this year’s Freedom of Thought Report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Malaysia was given a score of 4.5, with 5 being the worst possible score.

“Through publication of this report, the IHEU issues a warning: that in at least seven countries the non-religious were actively persecuted in new or evolving major incidents or trends in 2017.

“We record new waves of incitement to hatred or violence in at least Malaysia, Mauritania and Pakistan,” IHEU director of communications Bob Churchill wrote in his editorial introduction to the report.

Malaysia had scored 4 for the categories of “Constitution and government” and “Education and children’s rights”, but 5 for “Family, community, society” and “Freedom of expression, humanist values”.

“This country is found to be declining, with human rights including freedom of thought and expression under serious assault,” the report said of Malaysia.

The report pointed at the subsequent harassments and threats against members of the Kuala Lumpur “consulate” of international group Atheist Republic, after a photo of them smiling and making “peace” sign at a gathering went viral.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim had then said that in Malaysia should be “hunted down” by authorities, claiming there is no place for such groups under the Federal Constitution.

Last month, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki claimed that atheism is a “very dangerous” ideology, and alleged that the freedom of religion in the Constitution which guarantees the freedom to worship does not include the freedom to not believe.

The report also highlighted the discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in the country, and the plan to remove obstacles towards the implementation of the controversial Islamic penal code of hudud.

The report also singled out Malaysia among the 12 countries where “apostasy” is punishable by death, along with Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Starting out in 2012, the report was prepared from submissions received from experts, relevant parties, and members of IHEU, a worldwide umbrella of humanist, atheist, secular and similar organisations.