The proverbial clash of civilizations affects the most intimate aspects of our lives, in this case, how different cultures view child abuse. While in the West, news outlets like CNN run stories titled “The era of spanking is finally over,” in the East, an entirely different perspective prevails about how to treat children.
In conservative Muslim countries, it is largely not contested whether a parent (or sometimes a teacher) has a right to beat a child. While in the West, we see “beating” as any form of harsh physical contact. We also campaign against emotional abuse.
In Muslim countries or non-Muslim Asian countries, beatings are normalized. There is no guarantee that severe beatings will trigger outside help or intervention. It is also understood that those outside the family will not want to intervene in what is seen as a private affair.
No story underscores this discrepancy between different values more than the recent story of a Malaysian celebrity who disciplined his daughter with a cane then uploaded a video of him applying ointment to her wounds. The sobbing nine-year-old had been punished for removing her hijab in front of an unknown man.
However, when discussing the clash of civilizations in the context of child abuse, it’s important to remember that immigrant communities who bring their culture with them and whose views are left unchallenged can pass on this abuse for generations.
Whether it happens in Malaysia or in Miami, the fact is, it’s happening under the name of religion and culture.