Baby-dumping: A manifestation of social illness in the Malay community?
KUALA LUMPUR: Political activist Hishamuddin Rais highlighted in his blog an article he'd written entitled "Lust and Morality", in which he lamented the baby-dumping epidemic in this country.
In the article, he said that he was shocked and saddened the first time he read about the case of a dead, abandoned baby in the news, but even more shocked when the cases kept on coming.
To highlight what he called "a manifestation of social illness in the Malay community", Hishamuddin contrasted Malaysians' reaction to baby-dumping cases with the reaction in Britain to the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger by two ten-year-old boys in Merseyside.
"When news of this tragedy appeared in the media, it wasn’t just the British who were shocked, but all of Europe," he said. "From Stockholm to Sardinia, Europeans were wondering: what’s happened to the British society? Where did they go wrong? What caused this tragedy?"
"What impressed me then," he continued, "was how this tragedy called for all members of the community to give their views and opinions. Sociology professors, academics, religious leaders, social workers, politicians, community leaders, mothers and fathers – they all discussed the tragedy of Jimie’s death. The death of one small child opened the eyes of every citizen of Britain. I repeat – only one death – opened the eyes of the entire country.
In Malaysia, he said, there are many tragic deaths but a different reaction from society.
"From 2000-2006 a total of 580 babies were dumped," he said. "From the beginning of this year up to August a total of 73 babies were dumped. Some were found next to garbage bins, in garbage bins, buried in bushes, and some were found in abandoned houses. A total of 29 of those babies who were abandoned were found alive, while 44 were found dead. These are official figures from the police themselves."
The people dumping those babies, he said, are Malay, and therefore Muslim; because of that the first people to speak up are religious authorities, who Hishamuddin called "religious bureaucrats".
"These religious bureaucrats only speak up to convey moral arguments," he said. "Hellfire is promised to those who abandon innocent children."
He continued: "These religious bureaucrats use hellfire, sin and reward as arguments in their efforts to suppress sexual desire in young people. I reject these moral arguments. The moral arguments peddled by religious bureaucrats have been proven to have no meaning whatsoever to boys whose testosterone is peaking."
Hishamuddin said that the high number of babies born out of wedlock -- and the number of such babies that are abandoned -- shows that moral arguments have failed.
"Try to picture 580 dead, abandoned babies," he said. "This number is equal to a battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment. Try to picture the 73 babies dumped this year. This number is equal to two Standard One classes at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bangsar."
He said that Malays should reject the moral arguments of the religious bureaucrats and accept that Malay society is undergoing a profound shift in social structure, brought about by fundamental economic changes.
"Whereas before the traditional Malays farmed in the villages, there now exists a second generation of Malays who live and work in the city," He said.
"This change in social structure that’s been brought on by the economy has also opened up new relationships between members of society," he added. "In the old days bachelors and young girls only met when there was a social gathering. The idea of girls being kept in seclusion until their wedding day is now a thing of the past. Nowadays young men and women meet day and night."
"I don’t reject the role of religious authorities," he said, "but it’s clear that the moral approach has failed. I also don’t doubt that the religious authorities are well-intentioned, honest and sincere. But what we need here is not good intentions or honesty. Good intentions alone will not stop kids from having sex."
"Lust among teens can’t just be curbed with cold showers or spells. It requires a new approach. Smoke signals as a means of sending information can’t beat SMS from a mobile phone."
"Therefore, we must dare to look at these abandoned babies as our responsibility. Religious authorities don’t have a monopoly on the truth. Politicians must dare to make decisions. Experts from every field must give their views and opinions. Young and old must talk about this issue."
Read the full article (in Bahasa Malaysia) HERE.