‘Freedom of religion includes freedom to opt out of religion’


Source: FMT News

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki (left), and Art Harun (right). Image drawn from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyer Azhar Harun today responded to a deputy minister who claimed atheism was in contradiction with the Federal Constitution, saying freedom of religion includes the choice to “opt out of religion”.

In a Facebook post addressed to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Azhar, popularly known as Art Harun, said just because the Federal Constitution made no mention of the freedom not to have any religion, it did not mean that atheism was unconstitutional.

“Implied within the word and concept of freedom is the exercise of choice.

“When the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, that freedom carries with it the choice to opt out of religion.

“That provision is not an imposition to profess a religion. It is merely a guarantee to all citizens professing a religion to practise their religion freely,” he said.

Yesterday, Asyraf said atheism had no place in Malaysia as it contravened both the constitution and the Rukunegara.

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, he said in the Malaysian context, freedom of religion did not mean freedom from any religion.

He added that atheism attacked other religions, which would contravene laws on public order.

However, Azhar said the Federal Constitution also guaranteed freedom of association and expression, with no mention of a person’s right not to associate or express themselves.

“Using your superior logic, not associating oneself with any party or not expressing oneself is unconstitutional.

“The Federal Constitution also does not guarantee freedom to buy a car, drive an Alphard or the right to marry more than one. Or to be autistic. Are those things also unconstitutional?” he said.

The issue of atheism surfaced earlier this year, when the Kuala Lumpur chapter of a group known as the Atheist Republic posted a picture of its members attending a gathering.

This sparked an uproar among some Muslims and led to threats of death and violence against the group on social media.

The government subsequently said it would investigate whether any Muslims had joined the group.

Asyraf said then that any Muslims found to be in the group would be sent for counselling, while attempts to spread atheist ideas could be prosecuted under existing laws.