Certain supposedly God-fearing men were quick to take the law into their own hands when confronted with crime committed on mosque grounds.
A 19-year-old youth was recently caught stealing from the donation box in the mosque, to which the mosque committee members obviously did not take kindly, as the money was meant to benefit the local faithful.
The teenager was said to have stolen the money to buy medicine for his grandfather, with whom he has lived since he was eight, when his parents divorced.
What caught attention and raised concerns on social media was the video clip that showed these men of God in a frenzied fervour, punishing the teenager by hosing him down in the way Muslims ritually cleanse the dead. More than that, he was seen roughed up with the hose by one of the mosque committee members.
It must have been traumatic for the boy, although his mother was reported to have approved of the beating and humiliation he endured as an effective way of making him repent for his sin.
Equally disturbing, these men from the mosque played judge, jury and executioner before handing the young man over to the police, which gives rise to the question, what authority did they have to mete out such punishment to the teenager?
The young man was subsequently sentenced by the Selayang Magistrates Court to 10 days’ jail and fined RM4,000.
Being paraded and shamed on social media was additional punishment the young man could have done without, which could leave a psychological scar for the rest of his life, which is unjust.
What the imam and his men should have done instead was to try to understand what had driven the teenager to such impropriety.
If they had understood the teen’s circumstances, perhaps the imam and his men would not only have counselled him against wayward behaviour but also have tried to help the boy and his grandfather. The poverty the teenager suffered should have evoked compassion, not crude corporal treatment from the purportedly pious men. This is to prevent justice, which is important in Islam, from being turned on its head.
In a society where the moral compass has lost its importance over the years, particularly among people in high places, the imam might have seen a need to reinforce the line between right and wrong and have that instilled in the young man.
But it did not have to be in a manner that was degrading and, worse, violent – a trait that some self-appointed moral guardians appear to nurture. A rough, as opposed to instructive, approach is counterproductive.
Incidentally, the imam resigned from his position following the horrendous episode.
This incident should serve as a useful reminder to us all that the teenager had crossed the line and had to be brought to justice in a court of law – and not handled by people who have no authority to mete out punishment of various forms.
It is also vital to remind ourselves that what the teenager did was not too dissimilar to the action of those who plundered our national coffers in the past. This is because both instances involve people crossing the line in that they stole money meant for the community for their personal gain.
Additionally, it is important to note that while the rule of law must be applied equally in the interest of justice, the punishment obviously should be meted out according to the nature and gravity of the crime. In fact, compassion ought to have been factored in the case of the teenager.
One could surmise that what the imam and his men intended to do was to inflict shame on someone they considered had done wrong. The method used to shame him was, however, very disturbing and incorrect.
Shame has its social significance. That is why it is important that people who commit embezzlement and corruption must be condemned in the hope that a sense of shame would prevail in them. This is especially so when theft of public funds can also hurt the ummah even more seriously as well because many of them are poor and badly in need of more government aid, which would now be slashed as a result of the stolen public funds.
It is curious that the outrage expressed by the mosque men over the teenager’s misdeed is not found in many cases of high-level graft.
Instead, the corrupt hands are kissed and they are given VIP treatment. To do so gives the culprits a terribly wrong signal.
To do so, as many in our midst are still doing, is to let all hell break loose in our society. – The Malaysian Insight