Lawyer: What happens to atheists if Rukunegara included in Federal Constitution?

(MMO) – The rights of atheists to not believe in the existence of God would be affected if the Rukunegara is made a preamble of the Federal Constitution, a Muslim lawyer said today.

“Next, one of the five tenets of the Rukunegara is believing in God. Now here arises a question; how about those who do not have religion? The Orang Asli, the aborigines in Sabah and Sarawak who do not have religion?

“If ‘believing in God’ is made a preamble of the Federal Constitution that has a legal impact in the end, there will be some who will then argue that all Malaysians must trust in God,” Muslim Lawyers Association (PPMM) president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar who practices both civil and Shariah law, told a roundtable discussion here.

The talk was organised by Malay-rights group Perkasa to discuss the proposal brought forward by a group of seven activists calling themselves “Rukunegara Muqaddimah Perlembagaan” (RMP), to push for the Rukunegara or National Principles to be made a preamble of the Federal Constitution.

Zainul said that while such a tenet is not a problem for Muslims, but Islam in itself guarantees freedom of religion even for non-believers and atheists alike.

“We cannot force people who don’t believe in God to convert to Islam, we cannot force those who don’t believe in God to convert to Buddhism and so on,” he added.

The four-hour roundtable talks ended with the passing of a unanimous resolution by 31 Muslim lawyers and academics, rejecting the bid proposed by the RMP activists, last month.

The group expressed concern that the Federal Constitution would be superseded should the Rukunegara be made a preamble, which will also open up the floodgates for various interpretations of the law which would create chaos.

The members present today also agreed that the provisions guaranteed under the Federal Constitution are already complete. They also agreed that it is the Federal Constitution that needs to be strengthened further.

Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali (pic) told a press conference later, that the resolution would also be sent to the offices of all the Sultans in the state, office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Rulers Council as well as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), within a month.

The Rukunegara are five principles introduced by the government following the race riots of 1969. They are: belief in God, loyalty to king and country, the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and civility and decency.

As the name suggests, they are philosophies rather than rules, and contain ideals that the government hoped would encourage national unity in the wake of deadly racial unrest.

RMP’s head Chandra Muzaffar said that his team has set a benchmark of up to April 30 to collect as many signatures as possible through its newly created website.

Chandra said the group will also will submit an application with the Rulers Council in the hope that it would advise the Cabinet and Parliament to act accordingly.

Others in the movement include Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, human rights lawyer Firdaus Husni, Professor Madya Dr Madeline Berma who is director of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Tun Fatimah Hashim Women’s Leadership Centre, law professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Musawah global movement director Zainah Anwar and Professor CT Tan.