“Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
People who hear of Malaysia, would most likely already have an inkling of an idea that it’s pretty Islamic and pretty religious. And you would not be wrong. But today, I would like to tell you about all the ways Malaysia is opening up to the irreligious, as small as they may be.
2013 in Malaysia has seen quite a number of interesting activities organised by pretty interesting organizations/groups. In February, the Advocates of the Propagation of Science Literacy (APOSL) organised an event to celebrate Darwin’s birthday. This event was also celebrated last year, organised by Unscientific Malaysia. It seems like it will be celebrated next year as well and hopefully for many many years to come. This year it was held at a small space given out to various NGOs and other independent organizations for free (Pusat Loyar Burok). There were interesting facts about Darwin on the walls, a 3D documentary, talks, singing and dancing too! Here is a video of the event this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoTCgW1lItk APOSL organises a lot of small scaled talks and workshops all around the year for free and for all, promoting skepticism and rationality. The idea is to make questioning anything and everything around us easy and fun and absolutely normal. In a country where questioning is something so foreign and criminal (punishable by law!) this effort is much needed and one that is hard to achieve.
Apart from that, there have also been interfaith dialogues between local public universities and members of the Malaysian Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics and their friends (MAFA) group. Here is the video of the very first one held (great turnout!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGDn6SE5Ikg. Since then, there has been another interfaith dialogue.
This was a wonderful step ahead because it promotes DIALOGUE. That was precisely what we all needed in large amounts (and still do), to understand and to accept, not to judge and punish. It was also a great platform to talk about evolution (what is it? What are the myths?) and how not to fear it. Many students who attended the talk that evening, went on to being members of MAFA just to continue the dialogue, to understand the opinions of others and to share more of theirs.
Another effort worth mentioning would be the Malaysian Bar’s willingness to organise a forum this year on Secularism in the Malaysian Constitution. For a long time, this has been a topic of debate. There seems to be a growing concern of where Malaysia’s political scene will take its people as it looks like we’re heading further down the rabbit hole into religiosity and racism. Although Malaysia is a multi-racial country, many regard Malaysia as an Islamic state but many other people say Malaysia has never been one and should not be recognised as one. To try and shed some light on these issues, experienced lawyers and others turned to the highest order of the law, the Malaysian Constitution and tried to answer these questions.
2013 has been a relatively better year in terms of reaching out and raising awareness on skeptism and rationality. It can and will only get better in 2014. Till then, here’s to another stable orbit around our star! Happy New Year!
“What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do, here and now, with our intelligence, and our knowledge of the cosmos.” – Carl Sagan
Geetha (MAFA), Malaysia