MP: Does freedom of speech also mean you must speak?

Source: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 ― A deputy minister’s claim that freedom of religion did not equate to freedom from religion was “utter rubbish”, said a federal legislator when noting that the same liberty to speech did not compel a citizen to exercise the right.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua also questioned how Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki arrived at his controversial conclusion that atheism was illegal in Malaysia, which the latter made this week in Parliament.

Pua then used the constitutional guarantee of free speech to debunk Asyraf’s position, and explained that a liberty only meant the ability to pursue an action if a person so desired.

“When the Constitution says under Article 10, ‘every person has the right to freedom of speech’ and “every person has the right to assemble peacefully without arms”, would the deputy minister with a doctorate also interpret it as ‘everyone must speak (and hence cannot remain silent)’ and that ‘everyone cannot refuse to participate in peaceful assembly’? Read more

Arbitrary Sedition Act makes ‘promoting atheism’ a crime, lawyers explain

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The Sedition Act could be used by the government against those who promote atheism in limited situations due to the law’s broad definitions and the current state of Malaysia, lawyers have said.

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said there is no specific legislation that makes atheism an offence under civil laws, further arguing that the Sedition Act cannot be used against someone for being an atheist.

“Being an atheist is not seditious, especially if it is done in private.

“Spreading atheism may be deemed as seditious in certain circumstances, such as if it is done by insulting or undermining other faiths, especially Islam. But that is because the Sedition Act is so wide and arbitrary and can be used in many ways,” he said, adding that this was why the Sedition Act should be abolished. Read more

Religious group supports atheists’ rights

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Malaysia has no laws that force people to have a religious affiliation, a minority faith group told a deputy minister who claimed that atheism was illegal.

Jagir Singh, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) — Picture by Choo Choy May

Jagir Singh, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), said that atheists are therefore free to profess their beliefs.

“Article 11(1) [of the Federal Constitution] gives the right to every person to profess and practise his religion. It is noted that a deputy minister has stated that it is not equal to freedom of religion, that is, every person must have a religion. There is nothing in the Federal Constitution, or any law in Malaysia that says every person must have a religion,” Jagir said.

On the Rukun Negara which lists “belief in God” as one of its principles, Jagir said it was included as most Malaysians were already professing their belief in religion.

According to the lawyer, the principle also meant that there was already due recognition that there were also some without any religious beliefs.

“Of course most Malaysians have [a] religion. This fact was recognised in the Rukun Negara. The first point being ‘belief in God’. It ascertains that most Malaysians have a religion,” said Jagir.

“This was the reason they included it as ‘kepercayaan kepada Tuhan’, and thus recognising that there may be some without religion .

“It must be remembered also, that Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. To be atheist is not against any law,” he added. Read more

Lawyers: Being atheist, promoting atheism protected by Constitution

Source: The Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The Federal Constitution protects the right of Malaysians to be an atheist and to promote atheism, lawyers have said.

Syahredzan Johan — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said being an atheist is protected under the Federal Constitution, also noting that there are no constitutional provisions specifically prohibiting the spreading of atheism.

“The Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion under Article 11, and this includes the freedom not to believe. The statement by the Deputy Minister is completely wrong.

“The Federal Constitution also guarantees the right to life and personal liberty under Article 5. This would include the right not to believe in a religion,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.

Syahredzan said it is unlawful and unconstitutional for the government to act against atheists as it will violate their constitutional rights.

“Also, the Deputy Minister should be careful as he is overstepping his jurisdictional boundaries. Islam is the purview of the States, and the Malay Rulers are the head of Islam. He is merely a Deputy Minister in the Federation, he could only comment on Islam in the Federal Territories. Even in the FT, there is no specific Shariah legislation that make it an offence to propagate atheism,” he said.

Syahredzan and two other lawyers were commenting on the Thursday remarks by deputy minister Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who had claimed that atheism was unconstitutional as freedom of religion allegedly does not include freedom from religion. Read more

‘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. Read more

Atheism is not unconstitutional, legal minds tell deputy minister

Source: FMT News

PETALING JAYA: The Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion which includes the right not to practice any religion, a retired judge and a lawyer said.

Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram and lawyer K Shanmuga, however, said an exception had been made for Muslims following a Federal Court ruling in 2007 that those who wanted to convert out of that religion must get a certificate from the Shariah Court first.

Sri Ram said Article 11 guaranteed freedom of religion, which included the right not to practice any religion.

“Therefore the state cannot compel every citizen to follow some religion, and such direction is unconstitutional,” he said.

For example, a non-Muslim can refuse to follow any religion because the constitution does not sanction compulsion of religion.

“It only guarantees freedom of religion. In law, with respect, the deputy minister is wrong.” he said.

He was responding to a statement by deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki who told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that atheism had no place in Malaysia as it went against the constitution. Read more

Hak untuk tidak beragama juga dijamin perlembagaan, kata bekas hakim

Sumber: FMT News

Bekas hakim dan peguam memberikan pandangan undang-undang mereka berkenaan kenyataan Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki di Parlimen semalam. Gambar dipetik dari FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Perlembagaan Persekutuan menjamin kebebasan beragama termasuk hak untuk tidak mengamalkan apa-apa agama, kata beberapa pakar undang-undang.

Bagaimanapun, bekas hakim dan peguam yang ditemubual berkata pengecualian dibuat terhadap penganut Islam berdasarkan keputusan Mahkamah Persekutuan pada 2007 di mana mereka yang ingin menukar agama daripada Islam ke agama lain mesti mendapat kebenaran Mahkamah Syariah.

Bekas hakim Mahkamah Persekutuan, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram berkata Perkara 11 menjamin kebebasan beragama termasuk hak untuk tidak mengamalkan apa-apa agama.

“Oleh itu, kerajaan tidak boleh memaksa setiap warganegara menganut mana-mana agama dan arahan itu bercanggah dengan perlembagaan,” katanya.

Sebagai contoh, seorang bukan Islam boleh menolak mengikut mana-mana agama kerana perlembagaan tidak membenarkan paksaan dalam beragama.

“Ia hanya menjamin kebebasan beragama.”

Beliau mengulas kenyataan Timbalan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki yang memberitahu Dewan Rakyat semalam bahawa kebebasan beragama dalam perlembagaan tidak bermakna bebas daripada mengamalkan apa-apa agama. Read more

Putrajaya: Freedom of religion does not equal freedom from religion

Source: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 ― A deputy minister today claimed that atheism is a “very dangerous” ideology that goes against not only the Rukunegara that prescribes “believe in God” as one of the tenets, but also the Federal Constitution.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki alleged that the freedom of religion in the Constitution which guarantees the freedom to worship does not include the freedom to not believe.

“We have to understand that in the Malaysian context, our Federal Constitution states that the freedom of religion does not mean freedom from any religion because that is unconstitutional.

“This means we cannot incite someone to leave a religion or promote not having a religion. We cannot order or promote a belief of not having a religion, that is against the Federal Constitution,” he said. Read more

Intolerance rising in Malaysia, says report

Source: FMT News

Rising intolerance is believed to be largely due to the influence of Malaysians who study in Saudi Arabia and, upon their return, introduce Salafist ideas into the nation’s administration. Image taken from FMT News.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has shifted towards a more rigid, political Islam, resulting in greater intolerance in the country, according to a report in The Diplomat.

The report quoted researchers and Muslims as saying that intolerance was becoming a part of Malaysian life.

Dr Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in the US

Dr Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in the US, was quoted by The Diplomat as saying: “Malaysia has become steadily more intolerant, and this has been a top down government policy.”

Abuza, who focuses on Southeast Asian politics and security issues, described Malaysian Islamic religious leaders as state-sponsored and who used vetted sermons.

“The people most at risk are clearly the ethnic minorities, atheists, and Christian Malays, which is actually unconstitutional.

“I was just in Malaysia, and the intolerance displayed by Malays is growing. I don’t know one Chinese Malaysian or Indian that is not alarmed at where this is headed.” Read more