The spread of technology and the introduction of the internet have resulted in enormous changes in many parts of society, including culture. There has been a considerable influence on students’ moral ideals as a result of the emergence of what is usually referred to as “free culture,” which is characterised by unrestricted access to information, ideas, and creative output. This essay investigates the rise of moral decay among students as a result of a normalised, free society.
Free culture encompasses various elements, such as open-source software, Creative Commons licences for artistic works, and unrestricted access to digital media and information. It promotes collaboration, sharing, and remixing content without the limitations imposed by traditional copyright laws. While it has undoubtedly democratised knowledge and creativity in many ways, it also raises concerns about its potential influence on morality.
Normalised free culture can lead to the loss or dilution of long-held moral standards within communities. Students may encounter contradictory ideas on matters connected to ethics or morality when obstacles to obtaining varied perspectives decrease through online platforms such as social media or discussion forums. Young people may fail to differentiate right from wrong without sufficient instruction or critical thinking skills refined by comprehensive education programmes focusing on ethical reasoning. According to the newspaper clipping “Berita Harian” on August 16, 2023, the Ministry of Health’s (KKM) statistical estimate that on average 4,000 teenage girls under the age of 18 in this country become pregnant every year is a worrying scenario because the majority of them are due to free sex activities. Furthermore, the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Lecturer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G), School of Medical Sciences (PPSP), University Sains Malaysia (USM), stated that teenage pregnancy occurs due to a number of factors, including underage marriage or, more commonly, free sexual activity among teenagers and children. As a result, it is evident that the community cannot afford to ignore this issue since it will cause significant harm in the future, particularly to students.
Next, the normalisation and easy accessibility offered by free culture can expose students to inappropriate content at younger ages than before. The unrestricted availability of explicit material or morally objectionable ideas can desensitise impressionable minds over time. Consequently, exposure may lead some students down paths where they adopt behaviours contrary to societal norms or engage in activities detrimental not only to themselves but also to their interactions with others.
Besides that, one consequence arising from normalised free culture is the intensification of debates surrounding moral relativism versus universal morality principles. While some argue for the importance of cultural context and subjectivity in shaping moral values, others advocate for universal ethical standards. This clash of perspectives can confuse students attempting to form their own sense of morality, resulting in a decline in clear moral frameworks guiding decision-making processes. This is what affects the morale of today’s students as a result of the free association between men and women without restrictions that violate Islamic law.
Given the possible influence of normalised free culture on moral degradation among students, it is critical to prioritise comprehensive moral instruction inside educational institutions. As a result, Islam has established standards from the beginning to protect the common good from the larger harm that it invites. According to Dr. Ahzami Samiun Jazuli’s book “Life in the View of the Quran,” Surah Al-Isra verse 32 gives proof of Allah SWT’s prohibition on committing adultery and all sorts of behaviours that might lead to adultery, including promiscuity. So, the education system plays a vital role in dealing with this problem among students. By incorporating ethics-based curricula into school programmes at all levels, educators can provide students with the necessary tools to critically analyse conflicting ideas and develop their own system of ethical beliefs based on informed reasoning.
Plus, educators must also work on developing pupils’ critical thinking abilities. Encouraging students to challenge assumptions, critically analyse sources, and engage in intelligent debates about complicated ethical concerns can assist them in navigating the huge sea of information provided by free culture. By developing these abilities, young people will be better able to distinguish between right and wrong and make smart decisions about their activities.
Digital literacy plays a crucial role in addressing the negative consequences associated with a normalised, free culture. Students should receive guidance on responsible online behaviour, understanding privacy concerns, identifying fake news or misinformation, and recognising potential dangers associated with unregulated content consumption. A well-informed digital citizen is more likely to make conscious choices when navigating through digital spaces without succumbing entirely to their potentially detrimental effects.
To conclude, while open culture provides several benefits, such as improved access to knowledge and opportunities for creative expression, it also creates obstacles for students’ moral growth. If not addressed properly, the erosion of traditional values, along with exposure to improper information, can contribute to moral degradation. Societies may avoid these hazards while maximising the benefits of free culture by emphasising comprehensive moral education, developing critical thinking abilities, and encouraging digital literacy in educational institutions across the world. Only then will we be able to find a balance between unlimited access to knowledge and the preservation of strong moral ideals among future generations who follow the proper sharia. It is not impossible to produce graduates who are great in academics as well as morals by practicing the concept of ‘Amar Makruf Nahi Munkar in every individual’ in rejecting the association of free culture, because these criteria were embedded in the souls of Islamic youth fighters at the time, such as Sultan Muhamad Al-Fateh, Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi, and Zubair bin Awwam.
AYU DAYANG AKHIRA BINTI MOHD NORCHULIS
PROGRAM SARJANA MUDA FIQH DAN FATWA
FAKULTI SYARIAH DAN UNDANG-UNDANG
UNIVERSITI SAINS ISLAM MALAYSIA