One after another, news of youngsters being brutally murdered surface in our nation. Just as the country was reeling in from the emotional tragedy that was Mohamad Thaqif, comes the news of Zulfarhan Osman and T. Nhaveen like a one-two punch.
Clearly, it has become apparent that Malaysia has a bullying problem.
Here are four questions Malaysians need to ask themselves in light of these tragedies.
How Could Something Like This Happen?
Does the environment here allows these heinous acts to happen? We see it in every stage of a youth’s life: childhood (Thaqif), adolescence (Nhaveen) and young adulthood (Zulfarhan). What is it about our environment that breeds grounds for these cases regardless of age range?
The factors can be either external or internal. Externally, the situation that the assailants find themselves in positions of power over their victim. Physical strength, multiplied by the help they get with their supporters, further supplant this.
This creates a social pressure in the group to hurt the victim even when not coerced to do so in that situation. Stanley Milgram writes about this in his 1963 paper, “Behavioral Study of Obedience.” People have learned from childhood that it is a fundamental breach of moral conduct to hurt others against their will.
Yet the offenders abandoned this principle so easily, following the instructions of an authority (their peers in the group) who have no power to enforce the commands.
… the assailants find themselves in positions of power over their victim.
Internally the demonization of the victim by their aggressors also gives rise to extreme violent tendencies. Aggressors deal out greater punishment and violence towards those they demonize; like sinners, the wicked, the evil, the out-of-place ones.
Thaqif was beaten senselessly by his warden for his “sin” of making noise in the surau.
Zulfarhan was exposed to hot steam from an iron for days because of a dispute over a laptop. We do not know what the real story is, but it is likely that the perpetrators deemed him a liar or a criminal, fit to be punished.
Nhaveen was reportedly bullied for being effeminate. His bullies clearly demonizes that sort of behavior, justifying their actions to hit him with helmets until he was brain dead.
Could It Have Been Avoided?
Diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present.
One can question the people who were there when these victims were brutally abused and tortured.
Did no teacher realize that Thaqif had been hurting badly for a number of days? Did no one see the limp as he walked? No one picked up on his complaints of fever and pain?
Zulfarhan was tied and hit for a few days. That’s a long time. Why didn’t anyone do anything? Did none of his friends ever question his absence?
Nhaveen was brutally beaten outside a mosque. He was then taken to a nearby padang and his assailants called six of their other friends to help beat him up. Surely someone must’ve seen it happen? Heard his cries for help?
These three things could have been avoided had there been less of a diffusion of responsibility, a phenomenon where a person is less likely to take responsibility for an action (or inaction) when others are present.
If there was just one person who would speak up against it, the ordeal would have a greater chance to stop.
Why didn’t Malaysians step in to help? Are we so self-obsessed that we care no more about the plight of others? Is this an underlying symptom of a creeping disease in our society?
How Should We Punish The Wrongdoers?
There have been calls to hang them or prison them. There have also been death threats to their families.
It is clear that punishment should be done. It has to be known that there are repercussions to committing crimes, that it is completely not OK to do it.
But how should we punish them? Should we take away their life by hanging them? Take away their freedom by jailing them?
Yes, capital punishment is barbaric. But what they have done is equally barbaric. Should we give them what they deserve? How do we even determine what they deserve or not?
How Should We Move Forward From Something Like This?
Think of the families of those three victims.
They had hopes and dreams for Thaqif, Zulfarhan, and Nhaveen’s future lives. They still had a bright and promising future ahead of them.
Think of the horror. The pain of loss. The grief. Everybody only wants the best for their loved ones… even just thinking about them being brutally beaten, suffering through the worst pain imaginable, having their organs mutilated, twisted… it stabs them right at their very core.
The relatives need help and social support to pull them through these hard times. There are many ways to do this; organizing fundraisers to help them financially, offering counselling treatments, and so on.
Now think of the assailants and their families.
Should society act as judge, jury, and executioner, like in this case? No, that has never been beneficial for anyone.
Criticisms are fine. Hating them for their heinous crimes is entirely up to each person’s morals. But do not physically hurt them.
It is the justification of hurting other people against their will that brought about these tragic cases in the first place.
This post is a bit different from what the theme of the site is because the author thinks that this problem should not be left unchecked. What has happened to these three victims is extremely heinous; more should be done to prevent such cases in the future.
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