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Monday, June 18, 2018

Corporal punishment will exist where there's ignorance

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There is a horrific misconception out there that beating children (corporal punishment) is obeying a command from God. The ignorant also believe that corporal punishment beats hell out of a child. There is another wrong idea that corporal punishment serves the best interests of the child.

And there are people who camouflage their own mental demons that torment them, and these people perform the abuse and cruelty regularly in Allah's name. What chances do a defenseless innocent child, only a few years away from the mother's womb, have of living a normal childhood and becoming a balanced adult against such influential, compressed flawless ignorance?

Many 'teachers' do not beat children in their charge allegedly for the child's good, but for their own good  and the personal gratification they get from doing it.

It is their way of unleashing the tension and frustrations built-up in their own private lives and having a classroom filled wall-to-wall with 'whipping boys' is a God send - a perk of the job - in a society that on the main turns a blind eye to the cruelty and damage caused to the children.

Parents generally do not retaliate when their 'gift from God' returns after school or madrassa all bruised, sore, feeling less of a person and howling inwardly for the brutality to stop.

They cannot be blamed -- they do not know ignorance has been their lifelong partner, tutor and friend. They, unfortunately, had it instilled into them the concept that when a child makes a mistake, it needs to be punished so the mistake is not repeated. Pay particular attention to the word 'mistake'.

Punishment (read aggression or corporal punishment) is not and never was the solution to resolving mistakes. If people were to be punished for all their minor infractions, life itself would be horrendous; one non-stop conveyor belt of cruelty and not worth living.

Mistakes are acceptable to grown-ups…they make them all the time. It does not matter if you are the prime minister of the country, members of the cabinet, the dean of Dhaka University, or even the editor of this publication, all are prone to making mistakes and do so regularly. The difference being that nobody beats them when they make a mistake. Why is this cruel punishment reserved exclusively for children?

It is birthright of every child to make mistakes on their highway to learning. The reaction to that mistake is where adults generally go wrong. A child should not be punished for having made the mistake, but intelligently corrected. It is called discipline.

A child needs to be disciplined, corrected, shown the right way…not punished. This brings me to my earlier remark; there is a section of society that believes in punishing children. These people believe by beating children they are obeying a command from God, despite the massive evidence stacked-up against it.

All of this horror, pain and rivers of tears over the years can be attributed mainly to the mistranslation of one single word, 'rod'. Most people commonly know the word 'rod' to be a thin straight bar, especially made of wood or metal (fishing rod, or a stick by which someone is beaten).

The hackneyed expression, common to most homes, schools and madrassas and repeated throughout the ages, is: "spare the rod and spoil the child". We are told it is there in black and white in the "good book".

There is another similar to that which says 'he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him'.And those are perceived to be the only excuses and license needed to beat a child mercilessly…to do the child a favor…to beat the devil out of it. How wrong, how sad, how ignorant.

In Hebrew the word has a totally different meaning. In Psalms 23:4, it states: ". . . thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Now, that makes complete sense. The shepherd's rod/staff was/is used to encourage, guide, and discipline the sheep towards taking a desired direction, not to beat, hurt or damage them.

No shepherd would intentionally damage his stock and reduce his profits. The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read "spare good guidance and spoil the child" and "he who spares good guidance hates his son but he who loves him is careful to discipline him".

Why would anyone think that beating a child is a good thing and it would make them better citizens? A damaged child today is a broken adult tomorrow and a potential threat to society.

The jails are full of broken adults that were damaged as children. Poor parenting and poor teaching skills do not justify corporal punishment and those who administer it are not only heartless lawbreakers, but are actually working against the wishes of God.

Moulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology told an international media conference recently that Islam STRICTLY prohibits physical punishment of both males and females.

Those of Christian belief can go through the Bible and they will not find one mention where it says Mary and Joseph beat their son Jesus or that Jesus beat the children he taught.

Try to imagine Muhammad or Jesus slapping children in the face, beating them with sticks, shoes or metal scales, pulling their hair, or giving them a merciless trashing as some of the kids in schools and madrassas experience today.

You cannot beat-in good; it is not possible. You cannot beat-in respect; it's not possible. Muhammad, Jesus and all the prophets taught with love, no corporal punishment, and that worked wonders for them.  If it worked for them, the chances are the same recipe will work in homes, schools and madrassas for others.

In 2011 when High Court justices Md Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric practice of corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrassas, they said corporal punishment was "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom". Despite the ban, corporal punishment is still on-going. Unfortunately, where there's ignorance, corporal punishment will always exist and flourish.

The writer is a human rights advocate, an award-winning writer, a royal goodwill ambassador and a former newspaper publisher and editor

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