By Shazwan Zulkiffli

My colleagues chose to have iftar at Waneedah’s, a tomyam shop right next to our favorite makan place that serves, well, decent Thai food. We visit Chili’s Krab way more often than we should, and to avoid ourselves from slowly hating the place, why not try something else, right? We expected the food to be just about ‘alright’, but after a long day of puasa, anything can be considered as ‘sedap’. Iftar was supposed to be near-perfect with all the crew members getting ready to dig in, finally, but I never thought scrolling down my Twitter feed while waiting for the azan could turn the evening around. One tweet drastically changed my mood from craving tomyam, to getting sick in my stomach. Remember Nhaveen? The boy who was brutally tortured and bullied by his peers for not ‘manning up’, or in a derogatory Malay term, ‘lembut’?

He passed away just a few days ago from his injuries.

Twitter has always been the bearer of bad news of choice for our generation. From feminists-meninists catfights to issues on religion, Twitter has never lacked the potential to turn someone’s day sour. Nhaveen’s death, however, sent Twitter down another level lower. Famous Twitter personalities, musicians and even celebrities expressed their sadness and voiced out their concerns on the issue. We lost Nhaveen on the same month that we lost Zulfarhan, a bright young naval cadet from UPNM, who was also tortured to death by irresponsible bullies.

That’s two fatal bullying cases in a month. Two young men who are very much loved, and now missed by their families, beaten to death because of? Because of what? Because of who?

Because of all of us.

Nhaveen was clinically brain dead just days before his passing, and as he lay unresponsive on a hospital bed, reports alleged the reason behind the bullying was due to Nhaveen’s effeminate or ‘soft’ nature. For many, being effeminate is just a personality trait but for some, it has a direct connection with being gay, and most Malaysians haven’t been too kind with the LGBT community. The LGBT community has received too much hate over the recent years, including casual death threats issued by ‘everyday people’.

A huge number of us feel that ‘gay’ or ‘effeminate’ people aren’t people to begin with. Since they’re not considered as human beings with needs and wants, some of us feel it is acceptable to treat them inhumanely. Where did this come from? Is this just the mentality of the boys who killed Nhaveen, or the mentality of a nation that has swept logic and compassion under the rug because of an ancient idea?

As for the former naval cadet, Zulfarhan was accused of stealing a laptop, and how did his attackers know that? Because some of them consulted a ‘bomoh’, a shaman – technically illegal in Islamic law. A bomoh is someone who thinks that they can see beyond the six senses to find answers with the help of supernatural beings. Due to that, Zulfarhan’s same group of friends were adamant enough to believe in the outcome of the prediction, and proceeded to torture him with a clothing iron.

Who taught the boys that? What kind of people who would blindly hire a man to predict things using demons and ghosts? Our people, of course. This practice has been done centuries before ours and to this day, in the age of science and technology, the golden age of reason and logic, our culture still deems witch doctors as acceptable.

You could play the devil’s advocate and say not everyone who hate effeminates or believe in witch doctors are inclined to be murderers, and it would be true. But you don’t know the kids who are involved in these murder cases, you don’t sit down and talk to them. It’s easy to simply point fingers, but do you really know the struggles of being in their shoes? Is it a coincidence that most of the kids involved didn’t come from a stable background?

So, what’s the difference between them and you? The struggle, and struggling makes one more proactive than the ones who are comfortable, especially in solving a ‘problem’, whatever it may be. You, an anti-LGBT advocate, may be only ranting about LGBTs and how they should die in hellfire on Twitter, but these kids actually thought that they could, or perhaps should, send them there themselves. You, a victim of theft and a believer of witch doctors, may just post about your experience of being robbed on Facebook, but these kids took this matter with their own hands and mistook a friend for a crook.

In retrospect? Some of us are only a few bad days to being in these kids shoes. The boys deserve the punishment, but will that solve the problem? Absolutely not. Bullying will still flourish in school regardless of who is getting the rope. It’s the mentality that needs to change, it’s how we see things with hate that needs to be shifted to a more positive approach. It’s us parents not giving our children enough attention, it’s us siblings who knew their struggles but passed it on because we had better things to do. There’s nothing we can do about those boys, but we can still save our boys from the streets before they smother their hands with blood.

Faced with the reality of actually abusing and killing the target of your prejudice, you may not be ballsy enough to pull the trigger, but someone who’s a bit less fortunate than you, just might.

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