Malaysia to investigate if Muslims involved in atheist meeting

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian government says it will investigate claims on social media that Muslims attended a recent meeting organised by international group Atheist Republic in Kuala Lumpur.

According to national news agency Bernama, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said the country's religious departments could take action against these Muslims if it is proven that they have been involved in atheist activities.

"If it is proven that there are Muslims involved in atheist activities that could affect their faith, the state Islamic religious departments or Jawi (the Malay language acronym for the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department) could take action. I have asked for Jawi to look into this grave allegation," he told reporters on Sunday (Aug 6).

The minister also said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission should also be involved as the issue involved the faith of Muslims in the whole country.

Atheist Republic, a global non-profit group based in Canada responded yesterday that any crackdown on non-believers will affect Malaysia's image as a moderate Muslim country.

"What does this group do to anybody? How do they harm anybody?" Armin Navabi, the founder of the Vancouver-based group, told the Malay Mail Online on Monday (Aug 7). He said the group was just meant for non-believers to socialise and have a support community since they are often persecuted.

The issue first came to light after several Islamist blogsites posted a photo of the group's gathering in Kuala Lumpur, which appeared to feature young Malay Muslims, posing with Iran-born Mr Navabi.

The posts drew considerable ire, including calls for the "apostates" to be arrested and threats to behead Mr Navabi.

Atheist Republic has over a million followers and supporters on social media, and hundreds of outposts worldwide including in neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines.