Why Do Many Filipinos Continue to Discriminate Against Muslims?
Here we go again.
Sometimes it feels like bad deja vu. We've seen this before, with a school imposing a policy that bans the wearing of veils by Muslim women, and a town imposing special IDs for Muslims as a counter-terrorism measure.
Now it is the Manila Police profiling Muslim college students under the guise of peace-building and countering violent extremism. And the MPD takes it a step further by including Muslim high school students on their proposed list.
A memo circulating online, with ACT Teachers Alliance making a strong objection to the MPD move. On Friday, February 21, Metro Manila Police chief Debold Sinas recalled the order.
For Muslims, this order by the MPD, even if it was recalled quickly, triggered feelings of being discriminated against because of our religion. It alienates Muslims by making us feel a sense of "otherness" that can hamper the growth of trust that is vital to building lasting peace.
Our experience as Muslims in this country is that we are not always readily accepted by other Filipinos who are not Muslim. It is an experience where we constantly feel that we must be very careful in navigating our country's spaces, precisely because we are Muslim. We must constantly negotiate the spaces in which we live, study, socialize and work by walking on eggshells. In this latest case, our youth who are enrolled in this country's schools are learning, ironically, that they must be just as tentative in their movements as their elders are.
In order for there to be peace, there must be a basis for mutual trust. Feelings are important here, because it is from the feeling that one can trust another that trust grows. Trust is also emotionally motivated, as well as nurtured with logic and reason.
We understand it is not easy to build trust. We know that all too well, and we learned that hard lesson time and again. Trust has to be given, as well as earned. It isn't easy to give trust when we are made to feel like we are treated like suspects all the time.
Islam and its followers value peace. It is the central pillar of our religious beliefs. We want to feel less besieged, safer, accepted. Moves like those of the MPD made it difficult to find peace within ourselves and in the communities of which we are part. Despite this, we make conscious efforts to be worthy of trust and the peace this trust brings.
The MPD memo enraged netizens, many of them Muslims, who took to social media to criticize the MPD's move as a step backward that made them wonder what happened to all the peace dialogues over the past decades.
If Muslims in the country were enraged by this discriminatory act, how can anyone blame us? We have had to face precisely this kind of discrimination in the past. Unchecked, precisely this kind of discrimination led to many injustices committed against our communities and people during the Martial Law era, when Muslims were killed by paramilitary groups simply because they were Muslims.
Trust must go both ways. We give it. We receive it. We would truly appreciate it if this would be the case. Let's take this a step at a time, moving forward to build a strong, solid trust among us all as citizens of this country we all call home.
The MPD's policy was clearly profiling and discrimination that targeted our youth. It was also oppression, the kind that breeds injustice. We would act to protect our young ones just like any other human of any other religious persuasion would.
If we are serious in building this country as one nation, we should make sure that we do not allow oppression free rein.