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'?
“Of course not,” Pua said in a statement,
He also challenged the deputy minister's view that atheism was the equivalent of propagating non-Islamic beliefs to Muslims, calling it illogical to compare an absence of faith to active proselytisation.
Asyraf claimed on Thursday that atheism was a “very dangerous” ideology that was punishable under Shariah laws for Muslims and the Sedition Act for those of other faiths, basing this on the the Rukunegara principle that states “belief in God.”
Legal experts have rejected his claim by explaining that the Rukunegara has no force and that civil liberties only guaranteed the freedom to pursue a course of action, and not any necessity to do so.
They also pointed out the flaws in Asyraf's claim that all Malaysians must believe in some god, as some of the country's major faiths do not possess a central deity, which technically meant their followers did not believe in a god.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) similarly dismissed the deputy minister's view, saying there was nothing in local laws that made it necessary for non-Muslims to profess a religion.