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The Prime Minister of Malaysia has labelled “humanism and secularism as well as liberalism” a dangerous threat to Islam and the state.

He is also reported to have denied the internationally recognised right to change religion or to hold non-religious views, saying, “We will not tolerate any demands or right to apostasy by Muslims,” as well as stating that “LGBT activities” were forbidden for all Muslims in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia

Comparing humanism to a religion, the prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak  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. They do this on the premise of championing human rights.” The idea that even divergent opinions within Islam are “deviant” and a dire threat to national security is a frequent accusation made by members of the Malaysian government.

The Malay Mail was quoting Najib from a speech at the opening the 57th national Quran Recital Assembly yesterday. Najib is said to have claimed that there were efforts to spread the “deviant” thinking by relating it to the sanctity of Islam and that this was the most dangerous threat to the Islamic faith.

Najib stressed that the “Islam that is embraced, practised and upheld as the national religion in Malaysia is the Islam which is based on the Sunni sect as propagated by the Prophet Muhammad and his friends.

“We will not tolerate any demands or right to apostasy by Muslims, or deny Muslims their right to be governed by Shariah Courts and neither will we allow Muslims to engage in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activities,” he said.

Malaysia received the worst rating (“Grave Violations”) in the IHEU Freedom of Thought report 2013.  ‘Apostasy’ is already considered a matter for religious authorities in Malaysia and is therefore effectively deterred or prohibited because applications must go through Sharia courts, which rarely permit official conversions. Two Malaysian states officially mandate a death sentence for apostasy if the accused fail to recant their apostasy, and across the country ‘apostates’ risk being denied conversion, subjected to “rehabilitation” orders, and in general are forced to conceal atheist views or minority religious beliefs.

All ethnic Malays are presumed to be Muslims, and such crimes as khalwat (being in physical close proximity with an unrelated member of the opposite sex) are typically punishable with high fines, corporal punishment, or imprisonment. The national identity card scheme requires all citizens over the age of 12 to carry a card stating their religion, which contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — which Malaysia has failed to ratify but falsely claims to adhere to.

Sonja Eggerickx, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) commented, “This is a sad reflection on Najib’s personal understanding of human rights, in particular his total failure to grasp the scope and necessity of freedom of thought, religion and belief.

“On the one hand he asserts that under Maqasid Shariah he will uphold the welfare of every citizen regardless of religion or other status, and yet in fact he denies the very essence of Article 18 rights: that every citizen must have freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of religion. To rule out what he calls “apostasy” as Najib does, is to completely deny this long-established human right. It is not a matter of interpretation; he simply denies this basic human right to which his country is a signatory.

“The prime minister appears to state that Malaysia will grow stronger economically and developmentally only in proportion to the uniformity of Sunni belief in the country. This is incomprehensible given that the most developed and economically better-off countries do uphold Article 18 and 19 rights — that is, freedom to change religion, for humanists and others to leave religion, for citizens to think and to express themselves freely. These freedoms are not an alien agenda, they are a minimum standard for people to be able to live a fulfilled life and are the only way to achieve the progressive country which Najib says he wants to develop.”

Malaysia has a narrow conception of human rights, having signed only two of the eight legally enforceable human rights treaties derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and even then the state asserts constitutional exemptions to these treaties and to the Universal Declaration itself, asserting that only “those fundamental liberties provided for” in the Constitution will be upheld, rendering its signature to the UDHR basically an empty gesture.

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