Friday, July 20, 2007

Why It Sucks to be a Filipino Muslim

You are a minority in your country. Central government in the past decades enacted policies to have Christians from Visayas migrate to your land, displacing you, dispossessing you [1]. In the late 60s, 28 of your brethren who were being trained by the Philippine military to fight for Sabah, were slaughtered by their Christian superiors due to insubordination. In June 1971, Christian militias murdered 70 of your own, mostly old folks and children, the majority of whom were found inside a mosque. Is it any wonder then, that the MNLF and MILF came to be in the 60s and 70s? Armed movements wanting freedom for you, to make a land of your own, a country of your own to be governed by your own? In the wars of secession since, around 120,000 have been killed and 1,000,000 rendered homeless. 200,000 of you have sought refuge in Malaysia, where you are still foreigners, unwanted aliens [2].

You have to suffer stereotypes from other Filipinos - that you can't be trusted, that you're dishonest, that you have a higher propensity to steal. Until very recently, Eid'l Fitr, your version of Easter, has never been declared a holiday. Why should Catholics celebrate your religion anyway? Why should the majority acknowledge the minority?

Mindanao, your homeland, is the poorest island in the Philippines. It suffers the highest incidence of hunger when it has vast tracts of land dedicated to agriculture. Six of the poorest provinces in the country are in Mindanao, four of them in Muslim Mindanao.

In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law largely because of you and your people's secessionist movements. In 2007, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo looks set to put the blame on you again. You are the enemy. You are the other.

Fellow Christians, imagine what it would be like if to be born a Muslim in the Philippines. Imagine the weight of history, of social inequity and injustice, of difference one must bear on her shoulders. Imagine the feelings of resentment, of anger, of neglect. Given this, why would the Muslim want to be Filipino when the Filipino has only brought heartbreak for the Muslim?

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[1] Noble L. (1976). The Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines. Pacific Affairs, 49 (3), p. 406
[2] Quimpo N. (2001). Options in the Pursuit of a Just, Comprehensive, and Stable Peace in the Southern Philippines. Asian Survey, 41(2), p. 274-8

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