Religion has been a talking point for prime ministers lately

We published a letter in The Malay Mail Online on May 17, 2014. It was in response to  Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that humanism, secularism and liberalism are the basis for a new form of a religion known as “human rightism”, and that it threatens Islam. Our letter in response to his comments are reproduced below:


MAY 17 — 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.

In other words, humanism gives the utmost respect to the dignity of each person, and the right of each person to their religious beliefs (or none). There is no glorification of human desires or rejection of values merely because such values happen to be aligned with religious norms.

Therefore, it’s gladdening to note both Cameron and Najib affirming the importance of basic human decency. Cameron spoke of tolerance and respect for one another; Najib urged for fairness, justice and excellence in implementing human rights, and upholding the welfare of every individual, regardless of race, language or religion.

These opinions are clearly based on human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which both the United Kingdom and Malaysia are signatories.

These sentiments exactly resonate with those of humanism as well.

The Humanist Society (Singapore), also known as the HSS, is believed to be the only organisation in Southeast Asia to conduct regular workshops on humanism and humanism-related issues. We are based in Singapore, just south of West Malaysia.

There are many Malaysians living and working in Singapore, or who regularly travel here. In the course of our events, the HSS has met many well-educated, articulate and forward thinking Malaysians who identify with humanism. These Malaysians are also respectful of the rights of all people to hold religious beliefs (or none).

Malaysian humanists are great ambassadors for Malaysia. Rather than side-lining them, they should be celebrated as testifying to the diverse richness of Malaysian society.

We humbly and sincerely invite His Excellency Datuk Seri Najib Razak and all in Malaysia to attend our workshops in Singapore and find out more about humanism.

For more information, we are contactable at info(at) Our website ( also contains all the necessary information about our organisation.

* The Humanist Society (Singapore) is an organisation of humanists, atheists, agnostics, sceptics and other like-minded people in Singapore. It was formed in 2010 as part of a local humanist movement that began in 2008 as a community guided by reason, informed by evidence and driven by compassion.