Disagreement over atheism at forum on religious tolerance

Isma vice-president Aminuddin Yahya speaks during the 'Religious Tolerance and New Malaysia' forum at Gerak Budaya in Petaling Jaya July 30, 2018. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak
Isma vice-president Aminuddin Yahya speaks during the 'Religious Tolerance and New Malaysia' forum at Gerak Budaya in Petaling Jaya July 30, 2018. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak

PUTRAJAYA, July 31 — Panellists at the “Religious Tolerance and New Malaysia” forum organised by interfaith NGO Projek Dialog exchanged opinions over the right to profess no religion in the county.

Isma vice-president Aminuddin Yahya said that despite Malaysia's social status as a tolerant Muslim nation, atheism is still not permitted in Islam.

“I had discussed earlier that a framework for religious tolerance is needed, which originates from divine inspiration rather than man-made ideals.

“Per this framework, atheists should be counselled and given proper guidance. Yet when they push for their so-called human rights, it is another thing altogether. Such things would render them largely unacceptable and viewed as alien,” he said.

In contrast, lawyer Syahredzan Johan advocated that atheists have a place in the new Malaysia just as everyone else did.

“To me, freedom of religion also means freedom to not believe (in any faith) Just as the right to have an opinion means the right to have no opinion if you so choose,” he said.

Syahredzan also extended this to individuals or groups who who followed schools of Islam beyond what is officially recognised here.

“The Constitution defines Islam as the federal religion but it does not specify if this solely refers to Sunnis, so broadly speaking it can possibly encompass Shi'as and Ahmadiyyas as well. Whatever the case I feel there needs to be some sort of harmonisation for Malaysians to be able to live peacefully among each other,” he said.

On her part social activist and lawyer Siti Kasim said Malaysia would be better off if religion and politics could be separated.

“I take issue with certain groups like Isma and their inability to accept others who do not think like them, such as on the subject of atheism. As long as there are those who try to impose their views upon others I will continue to speak up,” she said.

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