Malaysia’s atheists fearful following calls by a minister to ‘track them down’

Channel NewsAsia, August 11, 2017.

Some Malay atheists in Malaysia are worried and fearful – in recent days there was a call by a minister “to track them down” while a Muslim cleric issued a reminder that the penalty for apostasy under Islam is “death”.

“I am worried. I have already accepted that something might happen to me … that I might be killed,” Halim (not his real name), told Channel NewsAsia.

“I say this because I see how extreme people have become, how my Facebook friends (could) turn into real-life threats for me with their comments that it is halal (permitted) to kill atheists, apostates … how eager they are to kill to gain merits in heaven,” he said.

Another self-professed atheist, Chaidir (not his real name), expressed worry for his friends who are less fortunate. “I worry for them because they are poor and have no connections. That makes them so much more vulnerable. At least for me, I come from the middle class and have more access to help,” he said.

According to Chaidir, he still fasts during the holy month of Ramadan when he is with his parents as he does not want them to know he is an atheist.

Both Halim and Chaidir stressed that they do not preach their atheist beliefs to anyone. “A person’s belief is a private matter. We don’t believe in proselytising what we believe in,” said Halim.

On Tuesday (Aug 8), Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim said the government should track down atheists. “I suggest we track them down and identify each of them. After that, we have to bring them back to the right path,” he said. This is a religious country. We have Islam, we have other religions – Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism – there is no one without a religion.”

The Negri Sembilan state Mufti Mohd Yusof Ahmad was quoted by Malay daily Sinar Harian as saying Islam prescribes death against Muslims who leave the religion for atheism, if they are “stubborn” and refuse to repent…