A Facebook photograph of an atheist gathering has caused an uproar in Malaysia, with one official suggesting the people pictured should be tracked down to “fix their faith” if they are Muslim.
The Malaysian government has also ordered an investigation following a meeting of the local chapter of the Canada-based nonprofit Atheist Republic in Kuala Lumpur last week, during which the group posted a photo on social media of people smiling, with their arms in the air.
Shahidan Kassim, a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Department, on Tuesday called on the public to help locate the group members, so that action could be taken.
“I would like to propose that we go all out to hunt them,” he said, without elaborating. “Help us to identify these groups.”
“Secondly, we need to bring them back and fix their faith if they are Muslims,” he was quoted as saying in a MalaysiaKini report Tuesday.
Shahidan also called on religious groups and muftis to “educate” Muslims who have decided to choose atheism.
Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor, a mufti from the northern state of Penang, criticized the minister’s statement, saying Islamic authorities should have approached the matter more gently.
“I disagree. If one starts to be rude, the reaction would indeed be harsh. When they use such words, people would then misunderstand the word of God,” Wan Salim told BenarNews. “They will call Islam a violent and cruel religion.”
Other legal experts agreed.
“It is an uncalled-for remark, exaggerated and can alarm the public unnecessarily,” Eric Paulsen, executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, told BenarNews.
Full story: BenarNews
Kuala Lumpur. Fairuz Mazlan in Penang, Malaysia contributed to this report.
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