Muslims 61%, Buddhists 20%, Christians 9%, Hindus 6%, Confucians, Taoists and other Chinese religions 1%, Other 1%, No religion 1%. (2010)
(Sunni) Islam enjoys special protection as the so-called “official religion of the state” (article 3.1 of the Malaysian constitution). It is based on a dogmatically clean, conservative version of Sunni Islam as defined by the religious authorities and actively against so-called “deviant” interpretations of Islam. Moreover, according to the Constitution, there is extensive religious freedom. However, for more than 30 years, government-sponsored emphasis has been placed on Islamic traditions, commandments and prohibitions, leading to the progressive Islamization of society, the state and the judiciary. For the Muslim population, Sharia judgments based on Islamic civil law, the imposition of punishments under Islamic criminal law have narrow limits on the area of punitive repression, even though an expansion of powers is currently being vigorously debated on the basis of an opposition bill. (German Federal Foreign Office, February 2018)
Punishments for apostasy are not constitutional, but authority over religious affiliation rests with state-sanctioned Sharia courts, which de facto make apostasy impossible. Penalties up to the death penalty are demanded repeatedly.
In August 2017, the photo of an atheist gathering in the Muslim community caused a stir after being highlighted by pro-Islamist blogs, which led to violence and death threats on social media. The photo that became viral was just a large group of people who smiled and made peace signs in the camera.
The problem is bigger than it seems, because these threats come not only from fundamentalist Islamists, but also from senior members of the Malaysian government. A minister of government in the increasingly fundamentalist Muslim majority nation has said that atheists in Malaysia should be “hunted down” for violating the constitution, and he called on Islamic scholars to re-educate non-believers. He called for an investigation into the circumstances of this meeting, in particular regarding the involvement of Muslims (or ex-Muslims). The Malaysian government has so far been considered a more moderate Islamic society, but this moderation could disappear. It seems that the Malaysian government no longer believes that no one has the right to target the life or freedom of another person because that person has conflicting views. (Atheist Republic)
Growing attention among the small number (~ 1%) who are prepared to identify themselves as non-religious has, however, led government officials and police to threaten atheists and deny that there is a right to atheism under the Malay Constitution express. Ethnic Malays are subject to strict state controls of enforced, homogeneous religious identity, including mandatory Sharia law, and in two states that are Hudud decrees demanding death for “apostasy.”
There is a significant social marginalization of the non-religious or stigma associated with the expression of atheism, humanism or secularism. (IHEU, 2016)
Recently, Deputy Minister Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who helped guide the actions of ex-Muslims, said in parliament that atheism was unconstitutional and contrary to both the federal constitution and the Rukunegara. “We need to understand that in the Malaysian context, our federal constitution states that religious freedom is not freedom from religion,” he said. (Atheist Republic, 2017)