I could observe almost every week from the 8th floor of the building where my office is located, hundreds of young Malay-Muslims gather in Kuala Lumpur clubs for dancing and drinking together, looking for new friends, and I suspect sometimes trying some of the new drugs, and (even having sex?). Why are they doing this, when such activities involve completely denying their religious training, even betraying what their parents taught them?
We are not talking about the “Guest Relations Officer” business of illegal foreign women practicing prostitution inside karaokes and massage parlors. We are talking about Malay-Muslims choosing freely to associate socially in ways their parents would never approve, and will probably never understand, even if they know about it.
The history of these activities is a long one. The modern version of this history began in the USA in the 1960’s, when the Viet Nam War indicated to the younger generation that their elders had completely lost their sanity and credibility, not to mention respectability.
What we now call “clubbing” was actually invented by one clever promoter named Bill Graham in San Francisco, who set up a large dancing area, called the “Fillmore Auditorium”, entertained by talented musical groups such as Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, the Butterfield Blues Band, the Doors, The Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, and more.
The use of drugs in those days encouraged a hypnotic lighting environment, and so the ancestor to the modern discoteque was born, with revolving crystal chandeliers, many-colored light shows, and so on. And of course, new drugs were developed to further enhance these young people’s search for – what?
This is the question we pose. WHY do Malay-Muslim youth continue to follow this totally non-religious activity, and in ever-increasing numbers? The first answer must be that they find something satisfying there that they no longer find in their families, schools, or mosques.
One clue to what they are seeking may be found in the study of the drug “ecstasy”. This laboratory compound, not naturally occurring in nature, was originally developed as an adjunct to family therapy.
The intention was to give an unhappy family a three or four-hour intensive experience of close, personal EMPATHY, which would restore the family members’ love and desire to be together and function as a family should, with mutual respect and – tender, loving kindness. Traditional methods of family therapy had never been able to achieve this, something much more efficient was needed. And the drug “ecstasy” (before it was called by that name) offered great promise to heal families in this one-session three to four-hour format.
Unfortunately, the drug was so successful, that criminal elements got hold of it and began profiteering on the young people at venues away from their homes, schools, and mosques, where they discovered close, drug-induced, and uncontrolled empathy with non-mahram friends and mixed-gender acquaintances, and in non-Muslim formats.
This empathy was so far superior to that found in the mosques and schools that it drew ever larger crowds until we have several major magazine publications exclusively devoted to “clubbing life” right here in Kuala Lumpur, not to mention Singapore, Bangkok, or other major world capitols.
This empathy is much more than sympathy. Sympathy is caring for the suffering of others. Empathy is FEELING the suffering, or anything else, of others, and is supposed to be what we seek by practicing Ramadhan. Young people want to feel what each other feel, nothing less — not only pity or compassion for the poor.
The only competition to the young people’s desperate search for lost empathy is to re-discover it in family, learning institution, and mosque life. For this to happen, a complete overhaul of parental training, teacher training, and revival of proper Islamic scholars and activists training will have to be designed and implemented. It is obviously a huge task, and yet nothing else will displace the “clubbing” phenomenon.
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