ISSN 2330-717X

The Price Malaysians Must Pay For Boy Abused To Death In Islamic/Quranic Memorization School – OpEd


With extreme sadness, on the death of Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, who was abused in a religious school in Johor (southern Malaysia), I wrote these two notes on my Facebook page.

he just wanted to
live to be a good man
and to grow up loving life – ar

must go on a long soul searching trip
for the future of our children
especially when it comes to education
and religious extremism
there is no point taking pride in becoming
when our schools are turning into
concentration camps for religious instruction? – ar

Days before the young boy died, when his two legs were amputated and his internal organs were failing and he was in a coma, I wrote down this quote from his diary:

“Dear Allah, please open my parents’ hearts to allow me to transfer to another school because I cannot stand it any more. Please, Allah, make my wishes come true.”  – from Mohamad Thaqif’s diary.)

What is the value of these kinds of tahfiz (Quran memorisation) schools when the human mind is structured to value thinking, rather than merely regurgitating information, they are not being used meaningfully? Don’t these religious school implementers read theories of human intelligence, philosophies of education, constructivism and critical approaches to teaching, and the writings of the liberal philosophers of education?

Yes, have them memorize, memorize, and memorize and make them only proud of that – don’t have them to analyze, analyze, analyze and synthesize and have them form their own opinions, because thinking is a dangerous and subversive act for those who are forcing them to memorize. This is how the Islamic State operates and how Boko Haram works.

Don’t these educators in the religious schools read any of the methods of effective teaching and effective learning? Or at least understand that you cannot force children to love learning by having them wake up at 3am, lose sleep, and when they cannot learn effectively, you allegedly beat them up?

Outcomes of learning

What is going on with the Education Ministry that is supposed to have resolved these issues of philosophy, paradigm, pedagogy, processes, and outcomes of learning, especially in the so-called tahfiz/memorization schools?

This news is the saddest I have ever read about a child in Malaysia. This child is damaged and his future as a thinking, feeling, and exciting being would have perhaps been lost – if he had survived the ordeal of the amputations. What a heartless, mindless, and soul-less system of schooling and learning.

What actually is to be achieved in these schools, besides forcing children to merely store information in containers called the ‘brains’ that ought to be used as active, thinking and feeling vessels? We have been independent for 60 years… what’s the problem of not understanding the meaning of education, the state, and a thinking citizenry?

Monitor these schools closely, please – they mighty evolve into breeding grounds of something the nation will regret. Under such a boarding school system and culture, anything can happen, contrary to the wishes of the parents. Kids can be abused, intelligence subdued and their emotional and mental capacities destroyed. And some might even be sexually abused.

The formative years of 0-2 and 2-12, and 12-18 are periods that require special understanding of the child’s mind, if society wishes to turn its citizens into powerful-intelligent-loving-wise individuals who will serve society selflessly. That’s what ‘sentimental, romantic, progressive, and brain-active’ education is about.

Don’t we ask our teachers to read Socrates, Rousseau, Montessori, Froebel, Raden Ajeng Kartini, Munshi Abdullah, Dewey, Freire, Gardner, etc. before we release them as ‘teachers’. Don’t we have that reading program in our teacher training schools and our universities?

What then must we do? Before many other children lose their legs and arms just for going to school? We must get good, humane, and humanistic educationists to look into these schools – from their philosophy to the method of disciplining the child.

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Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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