Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hindu family broken up, wife accused of being a Muslim

The ugly face of religion has surfaced again in Malaysia. You can get the details at Lim Kit Siang's blog. The family of an Indian Hindu rubber-tapper, Marimuthu s/o Periasamy has been broken up by the Selangor state Islamic Department (JAIS) who says that his wife is a Muslim because she was adopted by an Indian Muslim family when she was young. His wife though, has never practised Islam but practises Hinduism instead. The Islamic department intends to separate the family and place the wife and children in a rehabilitation center.

This is simply outrageous. A rehabilitation center? Do all Hindus have some kind of disease that they need to be cured of? Does it make sense for the state to break a family up and cause trauma and distress just to uphold some outdated and intolerant religious law? Is there religious freedom in Malaysia anymore?

The sad truth is that in Malaysia, Islam has precedence over all other religions. If you are a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, you are free to practise or renounce your religion, but if you or your spouse or your parents have the slightest involvement with Islam, you lose your civil religious rights. Any disputes will be handled by the Islamic court under Islamic laws instead of the civil court.

Anyway, I'm not here to debate the law, but I'm more concerned with issues of ethics. We should not see this as an Islamic issue and therefore it should be governed by a different set of rules. Why should Muslims be treated any differently from other religions? The universal declaration of human rights says that everyone is born free and equal without distinctions of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

If a Hindu and a Christian can live together as husband and wife, why can't a Hindu and a Muslim be allowed to live together? And if a Christian can choose to become a Muslim, why can't a Muslim become a Christian? Why does individual freedom of choice disappear whenever a particular religion is involved? Why should the rules be different simply because you believe in Prophet Muhammad instead of Jesus Christ or Lord Shiva? Also, why does the Islamic Department need to resort to such aggressive tactics? Aren't there less distressful ways to handle this case? Isn't religion supposed to promote peace and harmony, not wreck havoc?

I know many rational, moderate, Malaysian Muslims will sympathize with Mr. Marimuthu's plight and feel that the family should not be broken up over weak allegations of his wife's religion. It just goes against our innate sense of human dignity and rights. The problem is, they are not doing enough to oppose the state religious department. By keeping silent, they are in fact protecting these fundamentalists actions. Quoting Richard Dawkins, "The time has come for people of reason to say: enough is enough."

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Trouble with Atheism

Not too long ago, I watched an interesting documentary on Google Video called "The Trouble with Atheism" by Ron Liddle. You can catch it here.

This is a UK production and it features some famous and learned men like Prof. Richard Dawkins, Prof. Peter Atkins, Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne and Rev Dr. Alistair McGrath. The presenter, Ron Liddle, isn't trying to argue that atheism is wrong and Christianity is right, but he seems to be advocating fence-sitting. Perhaps he's pro-agnosticism?

The subject of belief and disbelief is always interesting but I find that the documentary failed to present any strong arguments. One of his points is that the world will not be a better place if everyone became atheists. He tried to show how some atheists are arrogant and as intolerable as religious bigots. I think that is unfair because atheism has never claimed that it can and will solve the world's problems. Atheism isn't a faith, rather it is a lack of faith.

A major part of the documentary was used to attack atheism's over-reliance on science. He argued that since science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, it is a matter of personal choice whether to become a believer or a disbeliever. This is very true, but it does imply that before you decide whether or not to believe in God, you first need to read both the scientific and religious texts. So much science. So many religions. How many people actually do that? Most people do just the opposite. They first decide whether they believe or not and then they let their decision determine the books they read. I remember Sam Harris mentioned that over 90% of the members of the National Academy of Science are atheists while 90% of the US population are theists which reinforces my point that majority of people don't know enough science to make an informed decision about their personal belief in God.

Next of course, you can't talk about atheism without mentioning Darwinism. Ron Liddle says atheists are pushing Darwinism too far, when they're using it to explain everything, for example, using memes to explain morality and the survival of religion (He should first read The Selfish Gene). He says that one day in the not too distant future, Darwin's theories will be comprehensively rewritten and accepted by the scientific community as such i.e. a paradigme shift. Honestly, I don't quite get his point here. It really doesn't matter if Darwin's theories get rewritten, as long as they are backed by evidence. You certainly can't say the same about religion. Today, we see so many religious sects and denominations just because some people had divine 'visions'.

Finally, Ron Liddle talked about the history of eugenics and its links to Darwinism. Today, we don't actively engage in eugenic practices because we have ethics. It's true that science doesn't offer us any moral guidance so atheists are looking to derive moral codes based on reason and those moral codes may change with time. Again, I don't quite get his point because I don't see this as a problem with atheism. I don't believe in an absolute moral code. Don't forget that atheism hasn't been around that long, compared to the religions of the world. Despite some hiccups, our moral code does improve gradually. Just look at racism, feminism and gay rights.

So, at the end of the day, fence-sitting is fine... but Ron, fence-sitting won't solve the world's problems either!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Malaysian bloggers to register?

This is getting ridiculous. I'm sure by now, many have heard that the Malaysian government is thinking of registering bloggers in order to stop them from spreading 'lies' about the government.

As you already know, the TV stations, newspapers and radio are all controlled by the Ministry of Information, so it is no surprise that they are all pro-government and seldom report anything really news-worthy. They will always tell you the economy is doing well, and our leaders are the smartest in the whole world. Many concerned Malaysians, especially the young and middle-aged turn to the Internet for the real news. Already, Malaysian bloggers have uncovered many skeletons in the government's closet such as numerous corruption allegations involving high-profile ministers.

The bumbling government doesn't know how to react. They started by suing two prominent Malaysian bloggers. And now they want to register all bloggers in the country. Personally, I find such actions absolutely disgusting. If blogs indeed tell lies, as the government claims, it wouldn't be difficult for the government to dispel them. Just show Malaysians the evidence and we'll believe you. You cannot hope to silence the people. You cannot hope to get away by sweeping everything under the carpet.

I hope all Malaysians feel as disgusted with this oppression. Let your voice of disapproval be heard in the forth-coming general elections. Don't let the ruling government bully you and strip you of your rights.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Richard Dawkins: Author of the Year

Congratulations Prof. Richard Dawkins for winning the Readers' Digest Author of the Year at the recent British Book Awards. His book The God Delusion was also nominated for the Borders Book of the Year award.

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