Muslim atheists? O ye, of little faith - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Malaysiakini : “We will see that the greatest problem confronting civilisation
is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of
cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself.” - Sam Harris
COMMENT | So Mahadi Awang, a representative from the Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim), claimedthat
“Muslims who turn atheists only do so because they wish to break away
from the chains of the Islamic way of life in order to experience
pleasure”, which seems a rather dubious assertion.
If anything, what the official narratives of Islam in this country
have demonstrated are that Muslims have to be prevented from seeking
“illicit” sex, alcohol, smoking, music videos, movies, books,
pornography, the company of the opposite sex and of course, excessive
laughter. Now the reality is that many Muslims have sex, drink alcohol,
smoke, watch music videos, movies and pornography (online), mingle with
the opposite sex, and laugh a lot. Hence as Muslims, they already
experience pleasure but what prevents them from openly experiencing
pleasure are the religious police who are paid to ensure that they stop
Of course, if you are a rich Muslim, then you are exempt from the
overt policing that your average Muslim is subjected to. Hence the more
logical explanation as to why some Muslims become atheist – let’s
dispense with the deeper intellectual motives for a moment – is not
because they want to experience pleasure – they do that already – but
because they do not want their pleasure policed by the state. Of course,
in Malaysia they have to be quiet about it but sometimes affirming your
non-belief with simpatico people provides clarity that all the
religious indoctrination that they have received since birth has not.
I really do not blame the Umno state for coming down hard on Muslim
atheists. Since the constitution defines who a “Malay” is and Islam is
the most important part of that definition, what happens when a Malay
chooses to shed his or her faith? Does he or she cease being “Malay”? If
someone is not a “Malay” anymore, what happens to the special
Since there are Christian and other “bumiputeras”, the argument can
be made that an atheist Malay is still technically a bumiputera unless
of course there is legislation in Malaysia which sanctions a lack of
belief in God. But wait, the first principle in the Rukunegara is
“Belief in God”, which is annoying to many atheists but more
importantly, it means that a Muslim atheist is in a religious quagmire
that he or she may never break free from.
I mean no oppositional political party is going to defend an atheist
Muslim’s non-belief. So-called “secular” parties fund Islamic religious
institutions, champion the rights of non-Muslims faiths and champion the
rights of religious freedoms offering a mixed bag of secular principles
that more often than not does more damage to secular principles than
inaction itself. This is why Islamic extremism is on the rise. Of
course, if folks got their noses out – just for a minute – of the 1MDB
cesspool, they would realise that the opposition mired in religious
politics is part of the problem.
Read what Yenny Wahid, daughter of the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, said
- “We're not just coming up with a counter narrative, we are coming up
with a counter identity, and that's what AI (Archipelago Islam) is all
about. We believe we're good Muslims but to be a good Muslim, we don't
have to accept the recipes that are handed out by some radicals from the
What are the Muslim counter identities here? The Muslim as feminist?
The Muslim as liberal? The Muslim who does not believe? The gay Muslim?
The secular Muslim? The non-observant Muslim? All these counter
identities the state wishes to expunge and the opposition has no
interests in nurturing for obvious political reasons.
A lack of understanding?
Seriously, the atheist plague? How I wish there was really an atheist
plague. If there was an atheist plague in this country, then Umno, PAS
and Bersatu would be cast aside as would every politician who bleats
about how god put him or her on his or her political path. The religious
card would be totally ineffective in the national discourse and money
wasted on religious initiatives would be channelled elsewhere.
However, let us not kid ourselves. Corruption would still exist but
at least we would not have to put up with the hypocritical religious
rantings of the state or politicians – whatever the religion – asking us
to look to god to solve our problems or hide our problems.
I mean, we do not have any gay pride parades here so what are these
so-called atheists going to do? March on the streets and hope the god
they do not believe in will save them from the chemically-laced water
cannons of the state? Demand that their special privileges be stripped
from them because they are not “Malays” anymore, or worse still, feel
entitled to their special privileges even though they are not Muslims
anymore? Carry around posters claiming that they are ex-Muslims and they
are here to stay?
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Shahidan Kassim says that
Muslims who become atheist do so from a lack of understanding of Islam.
This is the excuse given to any Muslim who does not subscribe to the
Muslims who want to reform the religion do so from a lack of
understanding of the religion. Muslim women who demand equal rights do
so from a lack of understanding of the religion. Gay Muslims who want to
be accepted – one wonders why – do so from a lack of understanding of
the religion. Liberal Muslims do not understand the religion.
Non-Muslims who speak up for their fellow citizens do not understand the
Maybe if so many people do not understand your religion, the problem
is with the religion and not with the people attempting to leave or
reform it. Furthermore, this obsession of the state in their belief they
can “fix” Muslims who stray from the state-endorsed path is the apogee
of ignorance that some Muslims take pride in.
Apparently, the state can “fix” gay Muslims. They can “fix” liberal
Muslims. They can “fix” feminist Muslims. They can “fix” atheist
Muslims. The only things they cannot seem to “fix” are Muslims who are
engaged in nationwide and worldwide financial corruption scandals.
As Sam Harris, author of ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue’, opens this piece, he should end it – “The great liberal betrayal of this generation is that in the name of
liberalism, communal rights have been prioritised over individual
autonomy within minority groups. And minorities within minorities really
do suffer because of this betrayal.
“The people I really worry about when we have this conversation are
feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims - all the vulnerable and
bullied individuals who are not just stigmatised but in many cases
violently assaulted or killed merely for being against the norm.”