Demonizing Muslims

WHEN news broke out that the spate of violence in Mindanao this week took the lives of 27 soldiers, some people were quick to call for an all-out war as if a military offensive would bring back the loss of lives and restore normalcy in the region.

But cooler heads know too well that more bloodshed won’t solve but compound the problem.

At present, the government is hard-pressed on coming up with immediate as well as long-term solutions. Part of the long-term solution to the Mindanao problem is an understanding about Muslim history, culture and identity.

In Congress, there is a proposal to include Muslim studies in all school levels nationwide to correct the demonization of Filipino Muslims and promote multicultural understanding and appreciation of Muslim values in our predominantly Christian country.

The proposal was contained in House Bill 270 which also seeks to create regular programs and special projects that would promote dialogue and information-sharing among Muslims, Christians and Lumads (indigenous tribal communities) about their different history, culture and identities.

For some time now, however, this proposed measure has been going around but has not received a bipartisan support it much needed.

Unfortunately, it does not even have a counterpart measure at the Senate, thereby making it doubly difficult to have it approved into law. It may also need to be adopted in Aquino administration’s legislative priority agenda.

HB 270, if passed into law, will rectify not only the negative stereotypes but also the historical grievances committed against Filipino Muslims who, in the past, have been associated with crimes, such as theft, rape, kidnapping-for-ransom, piracy and even terrorist activities as an offshoot of the Muslim extremists’ alleged link in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US more than 10 years ago.

An improved communication – or dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Muslims as the proposed law seeks to attain – would eliminate the demon-image misperceptions against the Muslims.

Its passage into law should be earnestly sought as it will erase the disaffection long experienced by Filipino Muslims in Mindanao towards the apparent inability of the national government to meet the basic needs of the Muslim communities all over the country, or at least bring them to the same level of socio-economic development as the rest of the Christian majority.

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