Skip to main content

Feeling of gloom and doom after the Keramat tahfiz fire

Police say they have solved the fatal tahfiz school fire case following the arrests of seven teenagers connected with the deaths of 23 people including learners as young as six years old at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz centre on September 16, 2017. The suspects had allegedly set fire to the tahfiz centre in Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kuala Lumpur after a name-calling incident between them and some pupils of the school. Apparently they had used two cooking gas cylinders and an accelerator to set the three-storey building on fire early Thursday morning.

Police are investigating the case as murder and causing mischief by fire. Police had picked up the suspects between 6.30pm Friday and 2.30am Saturday at different locations in Datuk Keramat, thanks to leads from CCTV recordings and initial forensic evidence that suggested foul play.

It is tempting to believe that the case has been cleared up, but in reality many factors promise to complicate the issue. The Keramat tahfiz tragedy is the latest in a series of fires that had hit religious institutions in the past two years, according to fire department statistics, quoted by ALJAZEERA. Of  the 1,083 fires that were recorded during this period, 211 were burned to the ground. The worst incident took place in 1989 when 27 female students at a religious school in Kedah died after fire destroyed the school and eight wooden hostels.

Predictably, the most recent incident has renewed calls for better regulation of religious schools which are mostly privately run. They come under the purview of state religious authorities and not the education ministry. Apparently there are more than 500 registered tahfiz schools in Malaysia but many more could be operating without licences.

The question is, have things improved over the last two years? As it often happens in Malaysia, there would be angry hue and cry for action when disasters strike but it would be business as usual after a week or two. If remedial efforts had been initiated to tackle the tahfiz school situation then people don't know about it.

It is disturbing to learn that the suspects -- all school dropouts between the ages of 11 and 18 -- showed no remorse, according to a New Straits Times report. Six of the seven suspects had tested positive for drugs. Two of them had been detained before, one on charges of vehicle theft, another for rioting. They were said to be on drugs when they started the fire. Reportedly, they are children of immigrants living in the Datuk Keramat area. Notwithstanding their crime, these suspects are as much victims as the tahfiz pupils who had perished in the fire. They need help to recover from the mess that they are in now.

One of the most frequently asked questions about them was, where were their parents when they embarked on their dastardly deed? Why were they allowed to roam the streets during the hours when most normal kids would be sleeping? But are we prepared to assist them? Do we even care about their well-being? Quiet introspection can be extremely valuable at this stage.

Did anyone ever imagine that Malaysian kids would resort to arson to exact revenge for a perceived wrongdoing? And why is this alarming aggressive behaviour surfacing now? Boys and girls today also have a hard time showing respect for authority, responding to simple instructions and completing tasks, among other things. They seem to be falling further and further behind.

We cannot say we have resolved the Keramat fire disaster until we address all the issues that had led to the blaze. A calamity of this magnitude should be one of those defining moments in Malaysia's  progress but do we have what it takes to bring both quality and commitment to the cause of keeping our children safe?






Comments

Popular Posts

Why Shamsul Amri dislikes Facebook

Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin People who do not use Facebook fall into three broad categories. The first group is completely indifferent to it, the second finds it mildly irritating and the third dislikes it intensely. Malaysia's prominent sociologist Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is of the last type. I made the mistake of asking Shamsul, who is director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, if he was on Facebook, the social network which was hatched up in the dormitories of Harvard six years ago. "I have a face and I keep thousands of books. Why do I need Facebook?" How do you react to that reply? I didn't. I meekly invited him to elaborate on his reasons. "Facebook will take away my soul and I won't allow that to happen because I am a believer," says Shamsul fiercely, who launched into a tirade of accusations against Facebook. Ninety per cent of the things you read on Facebook are either p

Buah Tarap: A chance encounter

You learn something new everyday. My friend Alina is very fond of repeating this. And I agree with her. Today I tasted the Buah Tarap (Tarap Fruit) which is said to be unique to Sabah/Borneo. My colleagues and I arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah this afternoon; we are here for the RHB New Straits Times Spell-It-Right Challenge which will take place at the Suria Mall over the weekend. After checking into the Beverly Hotel we walked to a nearby eatery for a spot of tea. It was then that I chanced upon the Buah Tarap and began snapping away. My colleague, who had eaten the fruit in Bandung, Indonesia, was excited to see it. He bought one for us to try. The stall vendor split the fruit into two and we bit into its flesh. Everyone liked it but describing its flavour remains a challenge. The fruit, which looks like nangka (jackfruit) or chempedak,  has an unusual combination of tastes: it is sweet but not as sweet as the jackfruit nor as chunky. Words fail me. It feels so light t

Who am I?

Malaysian artist Jeganathan Ramachandram will be exhibiting his paintings in Singapore if a deal with a company to display Human Watching: A Visual Poetry on the Science of Human Watching in the island republic is successful. The intuitive artist told Survey that the move is still under negotiation. Human watching made its debut at Galeri Petronas in March, 2009 and was well received by both art critics and art lovers. Fourteen portraits representing females and males born on each of the seven days in a week were put on view. The depictions (acrylic on canvas) were based on his observations of human behaviour for the past 14 years. Images of seven females and seven males inform viewers through symbols of their strengths and weaknesses and their relationships with other people. Those who have seen Human Watching identified with their profiles almost immediately. Admit it: you are curious about yourself! Males, who were born on Sunday ( bottom picture ), were pleasantly surprised t