Advocacy statements

State persecution of the non-religious in Malaysia

  • Date / 2017
  • Location / Malaysia
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 36th Session (11 September – 29 September 2017)

General Debate on Item 4

This statement is supported by Atheist Republic.

Last month, a minister in the Malaysian government, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, said the following: “It goes against the Constitution and human rights… I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups.”[1]

The minister was talking about Malaysian citizens who came together as part of the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic and posted a photo of themselves on social media.

The idea that atheists should be “hunted down” by the authorities with the help of the public is essentially a mandate for a witch hunt, with all the human rights implications and risks to individual safety and security that this implies.

Another minister, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, instructed the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department to investigate the group to see if any Muslims were involved; he said that ex-Muslims found to be part of the gathering would be counselled, and anyone found spreading atheist ideas potentially prosecuted.

This type of government language of persecution against the non-religious in the country is not new; in 2014, Prime Minister Razak described humanism and secularism as threats to Islam and the state. He said, “They call it human rightism, where the core beliefs are based on humanism and secularism as well as liberalism. It’s deviationist in that it glorifies the desires of man alone and rejects any value system that encompasses religious norms and etiquettes.”[2]

If standing up for human rights, a secular system where freedom of religion or belief and expression for all is respected and the promotion of values that are grounded in a concern for all people, over that of ideology or dogma then we are proud to be considered “deviationists,” and stand by all those in Malaysia who are doing the same.


[1] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/atheists-in-malaysia-should-be-hunted-down-minister-says#2IkCSQWSG2xpCGr6.97

[2] themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/pm-says-human-rightism-humanism-secularism-new-religion-threatening-islam

Suggested academic reference

'State persecution of the non-religious in Malaysia', Humanists International

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