I renounce Islam.
I renounce it not in malice, but in disgust at the actions of the state designating apostasy as an offense punishable by death. I renounce it because I do not believe in Allah. I renounce it because I am tired of being subject to laws from a religion I do not believe in. I renounce it to challenge the state’s restrictions on religious freedom.
Let me be clear. I hold no grudges against Muslims or Islam. I believe that Bruneian Muslims are tolerant, loving, compassionate, and understanding. I believe that Bruneian Muslims will stand beside their non-Muslim Bruneian sisters and brothers and speak up against tyranny when needed. And all that is needed is a push.
I am a believer of love. I am a believer of compassion. And I am a believer of freedom. I hold my views without wishing to impose on others, to shove it in people’s throats, or to force others to align their opinions with mine. I am a firm believer in public debate on all matters. And it fills me with great sadness that religion and scripture are used to shut down growing and burgeoning public conversations in matters such as state policy, lawmaking, citizenship, racial prejudice, homophobia and sexism. It is even to the level that even within Islam the state does not allow for Muslims to debate and doubt accepted beliefs, hadith and Quranic interpretation.
I am afraid. We are living in modern times and our country is experiencing modern development at a rapid pace. Yet our laws move backwards and our policies discriminate. The youth, while trying their best to move the country forward, is continuously being held back by narrow-minded, draconian rules while at the same time being chastised for lacking in ideas. The ministers demand entrepreneurial youths, yet impose a bloating bureaucracy onto them. They demand open-mindedness, yet label new ideas as bad, western influences. They demand quality, yet do little to reward excellence.
I am afraid, my fellow Bruneians. Subsidies and taxlessness cannot last forever, and the state is aware of this fact. Our resources are diminishing, and our country’s riches are finite. I fear that these new laws are partly introduced to combat future dissidents. The state is afraid. The state is worried. And the state has reacted.
My beliefs – or lack of it – do not hurt people. What I do behind closed doors have not impacted others.
Am I afraid of a death sentence? Yes I am. Am I afraid of whatever the state’s idea of ‘reeducation’ is? Of course. But I am more afraid of what this country will become if we stand idly.
I do not believe in life after death, and I do not believe in a heaven or hell. If the state learns of my identity, I do not know how I will act. But I do know that at this time that while I fear death, I welcome it more than a tyrannical state which aims to impose its religious beliefs on unwilling individuals. And I have faced near-death enough times to believe that my lack of beliefs will not change in the face of execution.
May the people save us.