China’s Ambiguous Atheism

WRITTEN BY MICKEY KEENAN AND MARK KOLSEN, GUEST WRITERS OF AAI NEWS TEAM

In a country that suppresses all forms of religious discussion, “scientific” studies about religion in China are almost impossible to conduct. The internet does, however, permit some measurement of Chinese religious sentiment, though even on the net Chinese citizens may be reluctant to speak openly.

What follows is one recent non-scientific study conducted by a courageous Chinese citizen who also interviewed several local experts on the subject. Her findings seem consistent with available sources on the subject.

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Malaysia: NUCC defends protection for atheists and Muslims alike in proposed new law

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) today hit back at criticism made by a coalition of Malay groups that its proposed anti-discrimination law recognises atheism and contravenes the Rukun Negara principle of belief in God.

According to The Malay Mail Online, NUCC’s law and policy committee member Mohd Zharif Badrul said the interpretation of religious beliefs in Section 4 of The Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill should be read with Section 5 and 6 which criminalises hate crime based on religion.

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Malaysian Court Reserves Word 'Allah' for Muslims

Malaysia's Top Court Dismissed Catholic Church's Request on Use of 'Allah'

According to The Wall Street Journal, Malaysia's top court on Monday dismissed the Roman Catholic Church's request that it be allowed to appeal a ruling barring it from using "Allah" to refer to the Christian God in its newspaper.

The high-stakes case, which dates back seven years, has provoked strong feelings in the Muslim-majority country at a time when advocates of conservative Islam have been growing in influence.

The Catholic Church first brought a case in 2008 to try to overturn a determination by Malaysia's then-home minister, Syed Hamid Albar, the year before that prohibited the Herald newspaper from using the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God and argued it should be used solely by Muslims.

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Public Schools in Indonesia Feel Islamic Pressure

By YENNI KWOK

When Lies Marcoes heard that her daughter’s high school, in Bogor, Indonesia, required all female Muslim students to wear a head veil once a week, she was furious. Although she herself was a Muslim and a graduate of an Islamic university in Jakarta, she went to the school to object to the imposition of the religious uniform in a state school.

As a result of her protest, she said, the order was rescinded — though her teenage daughter decided to wear the head scarf anyway to fit in with her friends.

According to NY Times, about 400 kilometers away, in central Java, another parent, Tri Agus Susanto Siswowiharjo, says he would like to send his daughters to a public secondary school, but he, too, is worried that they would have to wear Islamic dress.

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Chinese government will 'CRACKDOWN' cults

 According to abc News, in the wake of a brutal murder by members of a religious sect, the Chinese government is renewing its crackdown on cults.


State-run publications, such as the Xinhua News Agency, are producing a steady stream of articles alarming citizens to the dangers of religious cults, known in Chinese as "xiejiao," which in English means "evil religions."

Xinhua reports that the government has handed out four-year prison terms to 59 of the 1,500 cult members arrested since 2012. These 59 individuals were charged with "using religious organizations to disrupt the legal system."

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How the Sultan of Brunei Violated His Sharia Law With Me

The Daily Beast, 5 June 2014

As a teenager, I was the mistress of his brother—who ‘gave’ me as a gift to the sultan. And in just one night, we committed at least two offenses under his newly implemented penal code.

Now the sultan is making headlines for implementing Sharia law in Brunei, including a new penal code that includes stoning to death for adultery, cutting off limbs for theft, and flogging for violations such as abortion, alcohol consumption, and homosexuality. There’s also capital punishment for rape and sodomy.

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Myanmar lawmakers to debate law curbing religious conversions

Lawmakers in Myanmar debate proposed laws that aim to protect the country’s majority Buddhist identity by regulating religious conversions and interfaith marriages.

According to Reuters, the proposals come amidst rising sectarian tension in Myanmar, which has exploded in violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims, killing at least 237 people and displacing more than 140,000 since June 2012.

The vast majority of victims were Muslims who make up only about 5 percent of Myanmar's population of 60 million.

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Religion has been a talking point for prime ministers lately — Humanist Society

In April, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, declared the United Kingdom to be a “Christian country”. This echoed similar remarks, which Cameron earlier made in 2011 at the University of Oxford that Britain was in danger of a “moral collapse” unless rescued by Christian values. However, such remarks were immediately refuted by many in the UK, not least the former leader of the Church of England.

This week, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, likewise commented about the privileged position of Islam in Malaysia. Najib added that humanism, secularism and liberalism are the basis for a new form of a religion known as “human rightism”.

Seeing government leaders make similar overarching statements about their country's majority religion, it is not difficult to conclude that humans remain divided by different sets of beliefs. The only common denominator is that we are all humans, on this shared planet Earth. The fates of all of us are interlinked, whether we like it or not.

This means that co-operation and mutual respect are essential to improve our common lot.

This is what humanism seeks to do. Humanism and human rights are not religions, as no gods, supernatural beliefs or worshipping is involved. Instead, humanism is a human-centred life stance, or philosophy, in which human beings are solely responsible to each give meaning to their own life.

Humanists seek an ethical life-style based on reason, tolerance and compassion.

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Malaysia: PM Najib Claims “Humanism” Threatening Islam

Religious tensions have been high in Malaysia in recent months, but by and large Prime Minister Najib has tried to stay out of the fray. Recent comments by Najib, however, are sure to ratchet up tensions in Malaysia. Apparently, the Prime Minister is worried about “humanism” and “Secularism” and its treat to Islam, the dominant religion in Malaysia.

Unfamiliar with humanism? The term is used to refer to a variety of strains of thoughts, all of which place humanity, not a deity, at the center of their belief systems. While there are numerous humanist thinkers and different belief systems, in general humanists emphasize logic, rationality, and reason over beliefs of faith.

With more and more people rejecting faith and religion in general, humanism has been growing as an increasingly powerful force. Humanism, while distinct from secularism, generally advocates from the removal of religion from government and similar institutions. For Malaysia, whose ruling party has deep Islamic roots, this could certainly be a threat.

Comments nothing short of inflammatory

Despite humanism’s clearly anti-organized religious roots, Prime Minister Najib claims that the belief system is becoming a new form of religion itself. Najib argued this new “religion” is centered on humanism, secularism, and liberalism.”

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Tensions rise between Uighurs and Chinese amid fears of new attacks

By Edward Barbour-Lacey

A vehicle from the Chinese police special tactical unit guards the sidewalk near the site of an attack near Beijing's Forbidden City last year. Pic: AP.

Tensions remain high in China following a spate of attacks linked to Muslim Uighur extremists, prompting Chinese authorities to increase security on the streets of capital Beijing.

The most recent suicide attack by suspected Uighur separatists occurred at a train station in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, and killed three people and injured 79 more.  The two bombers were also killed in the explosion.

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Secular Malaysia made Islamic for political mileage, ex-minister says

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Now tagged “Islamic”, Malaysia has always been a secular nation as prescribed in its constitution and rightfully remains so, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said.

Its Islamic branding is a recent phenomenon, Zaid added, attributing it to Muslim leaders — including prime ministers — who chose to ignore the country’s founding document to score political brownie points, bolstering the erroneous world view of Southeast Asia’s third-biggest economy.

“Not a single Muslim leader will want to say what should be said. That is to say Malaysia by its Constitution is secular,” the former Umno member told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

The debate over Malaysia’s status, whether as a secular nation or one that is Islamic, is rearing its head amid a backdrop of several controversies over PAS’ push to roll out hudud and increasing religious policing that has driven a wedge between the Malay-Muslim majority and the country’s minorities.

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