Malaysian government minister calls for atheists to be “hunted down”

As you may know, Muslim whitewashers like Reza Aslan point out that there are “liberal” Muslim countries—like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey—where Islam is not oppressive. You can see his claims, as well as their refutation, on this post by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider at The Friendly Atheist,Reza Aslan is wrong about Islam and this is why“. (This is a must-read piece.) We know what’s happening in Turkey, and Syed and Haider have some choice words about Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Here’s what they say about Malaysia, the country that’s the subject of this short post:

Malaysia has a dual-system of law which mandates sharia law for Muslims. These allow men to have multiple wives (polygyny) and discriminate against women in inheritance (as mandated by Islamic scripture).It also prohibits wives from disobeying the “lawful orders” of their husbands.

Malaysia also has a high incidence of female genital mutilation, and as I mentioned in a post not long ago, a large Muslim group in Malaysia has called for the boycotting of Starbucks because its founder is in favor of gay rights. Finally, sodomy is illegal in Malaysia and its practice can get you a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

More evidence was reported today by The Malay Mail Online and reprinted by Yahoo News: a government minister has called for atheists to be identified and hunted down. To be sure, I don’t think he means wiping them out. Here’s part of the report:

Atheists in Malaysia should be “hunted down” by authorities as there is no place for groups like this under the Federal Constitution, a minister said today.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the public should aid authorities in locating groups like the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic so that action could be taken.

“The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. 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,” he said in a press conference at Parliament today.

But killing is not his goal, or at least he doesn’t say it explicitly: he thinks these atheists have simply gone astray and need re-education:

The Arau MP added that most of these Malaysians especially Muslims turn into atheists as they lack religious education. [JAC: I think he means they lack religious “indoctrination” and have the ability to think for themselves.]

“They actually don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education. They are misled with a new school of thought,” Shahidan said.

He also urged religious groups especially the muftis to help educate Muslims who have become atheists.

“We need to return them to the faith and correct their aqidah if they are Muslims. To all Mufti’s and state exco’s, take note,” Shahidan stressed.

Kassim underestimates these people; to become an atheist in an Islamic milieu is a difficult undertaking, and, to my mind, almost certainly doesn’t reflect “a lack of religious education.” It’s a hard road of self-reflection and courage. What Malaysia needs to do is lay off the atheists and let people be if they’re “apostates.”

Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. Photo by Yosef Mat Isa.

h/t: Mike, Woody

49 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “They actually don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education.”

    He hasn’t met many atheists.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, odd he doesn’t consider that people become atheists because religious claims are often embarrassingly fanciful!

      • darrelle
        Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Or that some people were never, at any time, theists. And that the more many never-believer’s learn about religion the more they are convinced it is nuts.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Political agenda? I’m guessing the guy has some trouble with his base and wants to up his “appeal”.

        • Ashok Philip
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          rickflick is absolutely right. Beset by the multibillion dollar 1MDB scandal, the ruling party (to which obviously this guy belongs) is using religious and racial sentiments to bolster its support among the Malay Muslim majority.

      • Sastra
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:43 am | Permalink

        In religion, being “embarrassingly fanciful” can be a feature rather than a bug. Because supernatural truths are elevated above the physical world they simply don’t have to make sense.

        Worse, one knows them intuitively. They’re self-evident once you disengage your thinking from the physical world. Kassim is doing the same familiar thing Christians do: you are told about the Good News and then accept or reject it. It only needs telling.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Quite likely he hasn’t met any atheists – particularly not any who are Malaysians.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 10, 2017 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        Actually, he probably has met many, but closeted.

  2. Martin Levin
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    And as if this weren’t sufficiently awful …http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/196642/anti-semitism-in-malaysia

  3. busterggi
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    “he thinks these atheists have simply gone astray and need re-education:”

    Yeah, like that has never been done before.

  4. Posted August 9, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Another country not to visit.

    /@

    • rickflick
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      …and there are many.

    • Ashok Philip
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      Oh, don’t let these fools dissuade you. It’s a beautiful place, the food’s great and most people are nice

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 11, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      Indeed. I won’t go to any of these repressive holes either.

      Bali is a popular destination for Australians but I won’t go, it is Indonesia.
      Although, I think Indonesia is making an attempt at reigning in the Islamic radicals after the Christian Mayor of Jakarta got jailed for bogus blasphemy charges.
      Indonesia does seem to be aware of and value its reputation for tolerance, but it is also a big power play.

  5. Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  6. Tom
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Simply how long can the West strangle itself on misplaced toleration?
    All the muslim states are regressing and are losing any respect for the non muslim majority in the world perceiving us as weakling compromisers incapable of making or implimenting coherent policies when challenged.
    What the world is again facing is the”abyss of new dark age” and our leaders do not seem to care enough to prevent it.
    (rant over)

  7. Jenny Haniver
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I sent RA a query about this using the contact form on his website. I await his [adjective to be filled in after reply] answer, though I doubt I’ll get one.

  8. Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Atheists are hated the world over – even by other atheists, if you believe this;

    “Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists.” Nature Human Behaviour 1:0151 (2017). doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0151

    From the extract

    “Here, we quantify moral distrust of atheists by applying well-tested measures in a large global sample (N = 3,256; 13 diverse countries). Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, people in most—but not all— of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world.”

    http://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0151

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I find that so hard to believe! I hope Jerry or someone can parse their methods, results, and interpretations thereof, and point out the loopholes. (I quickly skimmed the relevant section and it seemed dubious to me.)

      Most telling is the first line of the acknowledgements section: “This research was supported by a grant to W.M.G. from the John Templeton Foundation (48275).”

      • nwalsh
        Posted August 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        I noticed the John Templeton society grant too.In Canada we are too busy converting churches into pubs (per today’s Globe and Mail)to bother with such things.
        Like to see Jerry or Heather dissect this one.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          Me too. And what a great use for old churches!

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 9, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

            A new take on John Huston’s line in Chinatown: “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 9, 2017 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

              Indeed! 🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

          I noticed the John Templeton society grant too.In Canada we are too busy converting churches into pubs

          Is that a step towards making them lapdancing clubs or brothels?

      • Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        It seems to me that this methodology shows that people, even atheists, tend to think that “atheism” is more representative of a described serial killer than is “religious belief.” That is different than thinking “serial killing” is representative of atheists, which is what would lead to distrust of atheists. I don’t know if it is true that serial killers tend to be atheists, but I admit I was not surprised to learn that the pyschopath Ted Bundy was an atheist.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          Ah, that makes sense.

          In the following,

          “…most—but not all— of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world.”

          …the use of “representative” in that context is quite wrong, as is “anti-atheist prejudice.” It should be “anti-psychopath.” How did Nature let them get away with such false (and seemingly purposeful) conclusions?

          • Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

            FYI

            In case you don’t have access to the journal, here is a brief bit about their methodology;

            “The experiment used a version of the representativeness heuristic 27 . In the classic version of this task, participants are given a description of a politically liberal single woman. When asked whether it is more likely that she is (A) a bank cashier or (B) a bank cashier who is active in the feminist movement, participants tend erroneously to pick option B. Although logically incorrect (there are necessarily at least as many bank cashiers as bank cashiers who are feminists), the description seems more representative of the double identity provided in option B, leading people intuitively to choose that option (termed ‘the conjunction fallacy’). By independently varying the contents of the description and the identities implied by option B, researchers can assess the degree to which people intuitively view a given description as representative of different identities”

            Then a bit further they say;

            “We provided a description of an immoral person who initially tortures animals and eventually kills people for thrills (see Supplementary Information), and then asked whether it was more probable that the perpetrator was (A) a teacher or (B) a teacher who either (manipulated between subjects) does not believe in God or is a religious believer.”

            Here is the question they asked

            “When a man was young, he began inflicting harm on animals. It started with just pulling the wings off flies, but eventually progressed to torturing stray cats and other animals in his neighborhood.
            As an adult, the man found that he did not get much thrill from harming animals, so he began hurting people instead. He has killed 5 homeless people that he abducted from poor neighborhoods in his home city. Their dismembered bodies are currently buried in his basement.
            Which is more probable?
            1. The man is a teacher
            2. The man is a teacher and [does not believe in any gods. / is a religious
            believer.]”

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, mikeyc. In this instance the whole paper was available to me from your first post (a refreshing exception to the norm), and the parts you post above were about where I decided to not try to suss it out myself but turf it to JAC or someone else… 😉

            • Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

              Hmm. Maybe they did it right, then. In that case, I don’t know what to make of it.

              • clarkia
                Posted August 9, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

                I think a key analysis is when they restrict to individuals of 0 belief in god (page 3 of the pdf). For these, after adjustments, they get a 95% HPDI of (0.23,0.95) for atheist targets and 95% HPDI (0.12,0.88) for religious targets. So the atheist target has higher point estimate than religious, but the posterior intervals completely overlap. Just considering the intervals this would seem to be no evidence. But they go on to say that the posterior probability of the atheist target exceeding the religious is 0.999, but that does not make sense given the intervals. ?

              • Sastra
                Posted August 10, 2017 at 6:50 am | Permalink

                One possibility is that even atheists absorb cultural messages. Assuming these results are legit, this study might be analogous to those studies which showed that little black girls often chose white dolls over black ones, and gave them positive characteristics while the black ones were given negative ones.

          • Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            I never did understand how Tversky and Kahneman differentiated the description and the representation. In the Linda example, why not describe Linda as active feminist and ask if she is a bank teller or a politically liberal bank teller.

            Why not describe a person as an atheist and ask if he is a teacher or a serial killer teacher. I don’t think you’d get the same answers.

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 9, 2017 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

              I am one of the few people who didn’t think much of Thinking Fast and Slow.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion & morality? I have no idea what that is or what it means.

      • Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        Here are some of the references they give to support this claim.

        Atkinson, Q. D. & Bourrat, P. Beliefs about God, the afterlife and morality support the role of supernatural policing in human cooperation. Evol. Hum. Behav. 32, 41–49 (2011).

        Purzycki, B. G. et al. Moralistic gods, supern atural punishment and the expansion of human sociality. Nature 530, 327–330 (2016).

        Graham, J. & Haidt, J. Beyond beliefs: religions bind individuals into moral communities. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 14, 140–150 (2010).

        Sosis, R. & Alcorta, C. Signaling, solidarity, and the sacred: the evolution of religious behavior. Evol. Anthropol. 12, 264–274 (2003).

        Norenzayan, A. et al. The cultural evolution of prosocial religions. Behav. Brain Sci. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X14001356 (2016).

        there are a few more…..

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

          From the one link you give, I see that the primary author of the article in your first post here is also an author of that last reference. I wonder how many of these refs come from just a small set of the same researchers?

          • Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

            Several of the authors are on multiple papers. This does not by itself seem unusual or a reason for criticism; it is not uncommon in many branches of science.

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

              Yes, of course.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          Just reading the abstract on that last one sounds like a word puzzle of goo. Nice for BS.

  9. thebiggestlebowski
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Try and get Bill Maher to cover this. His publicity would be a big help. You may be able to get the story to him through Sam Harris.

  10. Posted August 9, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Finally, sodomy is illegal in Malaysia and its practice can get you a jail sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

    … where you will be sodomized for the next 20 years.

  11. gijswijs
    Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Uh oh, I live in Malaysia and am hard core atheist…

    But in all honesty, I don’t really worry about this from a personal perspective but in general it’s painful to see this country and Indonesia going the wrong way.

    You wouldn’t believe the hypocrisy that goes together with political statements like this. I just moved to Malaysia and have been living there for 7 months, so I’m still trying to wrap my head around these things, but a few things have already become clear to me:
    Hypocrisy about (mainly) religious laws is what makes this country run. It’s the oil that greases the gears. If they would really uphold their religious laws this country would grind to a halt. Obviously there are muslim leaders who call for more stringent laws and upholding of the current ones, and like I said, the country is sliding into the wrong direction, but for now this is still the current state of affairs.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Glad to hear it!

      But it’s hard not to worry, having watched the recent demise of previously secular countries in the middle east (Iran, Turkey, Iraq) and the results of the Arab Spring.

      • gijswijs
        Posted August 13, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        @Diane G. I’m not worried at a personal level. I don’t think that during my stay here for the coming few years, I run risks personally

        I’m very, very much worried about the country as a whole (and about Indonesia)

    • rickflick
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      The slipping and sliding sounds like politics as usual. The US has some of the same slimy to and fro, back and forth, give and take.

      • gijswijs
        Posted August 13, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        After I posted this comment I later thought: wait a minute, most of Jerry’s readers are probably from the US, so they are totally used to these amounts of hypocrisy.

        So, yeah you’re right.

  12. Kevin
    Posted August 10, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    There’s one country I can think of where an atheist could never be elected president in the current climate: can you guess which one I am thinking of?

  13. Posted August 10, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    One way to see how liberal the country is is to see if the minister is chastised by any of his colleagues.


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