by Dr Bashir Qureshi
FRCGP, FRCPCH, AFOM-RCP, Hon FFSRH-RCOG, Hon FRSPH, Hon MAPHA-USA. • Expert Witness Cultural, Religious & Ethnic issues in Litigation. • Expert Witness in GP Clinical Negligence. • Author, Transcultural Medicine; dealing with patients from different Cultures.
Gun and knife crimes are increasing, mostly among male school leavers worldwide e.g. in the USA, UK, New Zealand, Brazil, Middle East and so on. It is often a population problem and it is directly related to Public Health education in Schools worldwide.
Prevention by teaching students, better communication skills in a situation of disagreement between opponents, would achieve better results than just ceasing guns or knives. In fact, weapons would damage both parties. Another reality to consider is that Guns and knives would always be available with or without license, in every country. Obviously, hiding weapons is not the only solution. We need to realise that teachers and police can both reduce these crimes and they should be supported nationally.
Multicultural, Multireligious and Multi-ethnic aspects in this trend:
The majority of people in all Cultures, Religions and Ethnic circles are peace loving and have mutual respect. Using weapon in wars to bring peace is considered justified. However, some young men may become angry, emotionally upset or mentally unwell and commit these crimes. They may use mobile phones so much in excess that they lose verbal communication skills. Social media, as with a kitchen knife, can be used or misused by them. In these circumstances, some Cultural, Religious and Ethnic (racial) factors should be considered in addition to policing and legal actions. I mention some factors below:
• Culturally and Ethnically, Gun Crime is more common in the USA, South America and Europe; guns are easily available and adolescents can learn to use them effectively. Guns and cannons were invented in and used by the armies from European countries, for centuries. Weapons are essential to use for an attack, defence and deterring any attack. It is the misuse which needs to be stopped.
• Culturally and Ethnically, Knife Crime is more common in Africa, Asia and China; knives are always available and easy to use by male adolescents. Guns are not easily accessible and training is not at hand. Kitchen knives and axes are commonly used. It is not the kitchen knife but its user who is responsible for correct use or misuse.
• Religiously, setting fire to burn a person, house or shop is common in India. It is an old custom of Hindu religion to burn the widow in a "Sati" ceremony, when her husband dies, for her to live with him in next life. Cremation is the religious custom and not a burial. Hindus also believe in reincarnation. Religions always aim for good action with noble intentions.
• Sikh Religion requires every follower man to carry a knife, named as KIRPAN, with him. In some countries, e.g. United Kingdom, the knife has to be kept hidden under one’s clothes. In other countries e.g. India, Kirpan has to be carried visibly so as to deter any possible attacker.
• Every Cultural, Religious and Ethnic community aims to prevent crime but plead for self-defence. The necessity is to keep a weapon in safe hands for selfdefence and also to prevent any criminal attack.
The solution to this global fatal trend is by Public Health Education in schools:
• The aim should be to keep guns and knives in safe hands and secure places but to avoid the misuse by all criminals, especially young men; single or member of a gang. T he solution should be as follows:
1) To teach school adolescents, in special sessions and workshops, to communicate with each other face to face, in addition to using mobile phones and emails by computer. Practice makes a man perfect. Students would re member this practice.
2) To tolerate criticism; positive or negative. Criticism is good for progress in Politics and Science. To control anger when facing a negative comment from some one.
3) In a situation of disagreement, to use verbal expressions of disagreement or anger than harming or killing someone. Later on, a compromise may be pos sible.
4) To emphasise that if one is nice to a friend, he/she would become a better friend; if one is nice to an enemy, he/she would become less enemy. This could end in a win-win situation.
5) To assess if the adolescent has a mental illness such as undue stress, anxiety, depression or Schizophrenia which usually begins in teenage years. If so an urgent referral to their GP or Urgent Care Clinic in a local hospital should be arranged.
6) Politics, economics and law are as important in patient care as medicine. To save money in these days of austerity, national cuts are essential. In these difficult circumstances, it is wise to have enough numbers of school teachers and police. The nation needs them to prevent and deal with crimes. A stitch in time saves nine.
Most common causes of Gun and Knife crime are; religious conflicts, racial prejudices, cultural misunderstandings, personal disputes, gang frictions, drug addiction lack of payments and attacker’s mental illness.
It is not possible to eliminate these crimes only by banning guns and knives but these can be much reduced by asking teachers to educate their pupils to control anger and communicate verbally in confronting an opponent and to use mediation where possible. Police role is vital in prevention by screening suspected persons and also in dealing with those who have committed crimes. Courts and Jury would see that justice is done and seen to be done.
Teachers and police number should be adequate to meet demand, reasonable salary and their own protection should be sufficient and guaranteed. Indeed, this is an investment which can definitely pay dividend to the tax payer society.