Caring for our children?

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childrens rights
Image: elanguages.org

It is clear that we, including politicians and religious leaders – especially Islamic leaders in this case – must push back against this climate of cruelty, brutality and inhumanity, writes Zaharom Nain.

Two incidents – both tragic – over the past month or so, arguably illustrate how far we really are from meeting the challenges of Vision 2020.

Notwithstanding the hyperbole – and invariably the pipedream that it has become – one of the more laudable challenges of Vision 2020 was to create a Caring Society by that year.

As we look around us less than three years before the targeted year, only lying leaders – and naïve ones – would boast that the vision will become reality.

Indeed, for this desperate Najib regime, both the vision and the person who coined it are now virtually unmentionable, unless, of course, the aim is to vilify them.

As for the nine challenges of Vision 2020, virtually all seem to have been forgotten. Instead, Malaysian society, certainly under this present regime, has become more fractured and segregated and, officially, evidently more uncaring.

Take the challenge to create a caring society, for example.

In recent weeks, we have seen how vulnerable Malaysians, women and children especially, are being given a rotten deal. And if we can’t seem to care for our children and vulnerable others in need of our protection, where then is our society heading?

First, the idea and practice of child marriages, for example, has been rightly criticised by many, but, sadly, continue to be promoted by others. Notably, these have been adult males, some deserving of the title `dirty old men’, although others have called them paedophiles.

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One recent incident was that of the small-time politician, BN Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya, proposing marriage to the rapist as a `remedy’ for women who were raped and a way for the rapist to repent. And he was evidently sober when he said this.

He was rightly condemned by many for his horribly ignorant and insensitive view which was reported worldwide. Leading the critics was Aliran’s P Ramakrishnan with a strongly worded no-nonsense piece.

Strangely, BN politicians were slow to say anything, let alone criticise him. And the previously vocal religious heads, like the muftis of Perak and Pahang, unsurprisingly perhaps, seemed to decide to take a cigarette break this time around.

It was left to a former mufti from Terengganu, to provide a critique, albeit a month after Shabudin had made his crass comments.

But one seriously doubts a specimen with the mental capacity of Shabudin will be able to understand how wrong and truly odious he is in the eyes of many Malaysians.

The nightmare stories sadly did not end there.

It started off as a small news item about a young boy who had been admitted to hospital in Johor and had to have both his legs amputated. And it quickly blew up to a tragic tale that saddened and angered so many Malaysians.

Mohamad Thaqif Amin was that 11-year-old. He had been continuously abused by the assistant warden of the private religious (tahfiz) school he attended. The trashing he suffered – at the hands of a monster who turned out to be a convicted felon – eventually led to Thaqif having both his legs amputated and being in a coma before the rest of us knew about his tragic circumstances.

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And while many were praying for his recovery as he waited for another operation to remove his arm, Thaqif died.

As the whole country mourned his needless death, the authorities illustrated how screwed up we have become.

First, within a few days of his death, an opaque `investigation’ into the incident was swiftly concluded, with an outcome that exonerated the school. That a convicted felon had been put in charge of children and disciplining them somehow didn’t seem important or reflect negligence. The buck evidently has stopped with the detained assistant warden.

Indeed, now, only AFTER the tragedy, are the authorities mulling over the possible need to register these schools and monitor them more closely. One hears echoes of other such promises and assertions made numerous times. For example, we have had coaches crashing with many lives lost.

In any case, the authorities say the case is still being investigated by the police as a case of murder. Let us hope first that justice will be done. Second, that Thaqif will not have died in vain.

For the latter to come anywhere close to being fulfilled, wider issues must be looked at. The perpetrator certainly needs to be tried and sentenced. But, more important, punishment of this sadistic nature must be stopped and outlawed. Such punishment has consistently been proven to be ineffective, leaving behind scars and, in this case, the death of a little boy.

It is clear that we, including politicians and religious leaders – especially Islamic leaders in this case – must push back against this tide, this climate, of cruelty, brutality and inhumanity. And replace it with kindness, humanity, and a truly caring society.

READ MORE:  UN expert says child marriages must end

Rom Nain
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
12 May 2017

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