Profiling and ‘terrorists’
Recently there was a barrage of text messages warning the people of Tuguegarao City of the arrival of thousands of Muslims from all over the country, and insinuating that these Filipinos, who happen to be of the Islamic faith, were plotting to turn this relatively remote and peaceful capital of the province of Cagayan into the next Marawi.
In fact, yes, Filipino Muslims were coming to Tuguegarao; yes, there is a Muslim community in the city; yes, they were having a two-day convention of Muslim scholars; and yes, they had informed the authorities of the event. It was nothing more than a gathering of peace-loving Filipino Muslims exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights of association and religion.
It saddens me that racial profiling is so prevalent, even in our locality. I mean, certainly racial and ethnic profiling could be used as a means to hunt down suspected extremists, and at times could justify surveillance of these minorities. Where else should authorities start in investigating terror plots by Islamist fanatics, right?
But here’s the thing. If racial profiling were misplaced and laid out in the open, especially through the scornful eyes of a judgmental society, the adverse effects would outweigh the alleged benefits. National security as a justification for racial profiling only works in theory. It will be difficult to implement it effectively and efficiently, with little to no long-term benefits.
In its subtle form, racial profiling involves the filtering of information through the lens of stereotypes. Meaning, it is a product of preconceived bias based on what we see in the mainstream media, such as the rise of the Islamic State and its recent destructive activities brought about by the Maute group in the Islamic City of Marawi. It exacerbates a stigma long suffered by the ethnic minorities, as well as the Muslim community. We immediately label all of them as “enemies” and “terrorists” for the acts of a few individuals who never truly represent all members of the Islamic faith, while neglecting the flip side of the coin where, in reality, no single person, ethnicity, or creed is the same.
Victims of racial profiling have their liberty and interests taken from them without us knowing it, and it’s very evident in some areas, most dramatically after every labeled terror attack. Why so? Because people see it as the act of an entire race rather than a few disturbed individuals. And it pains me how people are able to make a sweeping judgment without a single bit of reason.
It goes without saying that we can only imagine what it is like to live their lives, what it feels like to be in their shoes. Some Muslim women have been forced to stop wearing the hijab because of profiling. Muslim children are bullied in school for bearing the blood of their ancestors. And Muslim men are labeled as terrorist.
Minorities are being accused on the basis of institutionalized racism and private bias. This kind of behavior does not effectively terminate terrorism; if anything, it worsens the situation and allows extremists to use the stereotype to recruit young and passionate Muslims to join their cause (after all, the reasoning goes, they are already branded as terrorists even if they haven’t done anything yet). It also decreases the probability of members of ethnic minorities cooperating with authorities in investigating perceived threats, since they fear societal repercussions.
Do any of us think that stereotypes and biases will make the targets submit to our insinuations? No. Instead, stereotypes and biases will only create a destructive impact in the lives of not just Muslims but also ethnic minorities who do not have the slightest involvement in acts of terror.
The way I see it, there’s not much reason to fear them; rather, it is they who have come to fear society in general because of us. We have become the true terrorists, for forcing them to live a life marked with society’s judgments and labels.
Terrorism comes in many shapes and forms. It does not come solely from a group of people who share one faith. It stems from bigotry and how one is raised. No one is born a bigot; bigotry is inculcated in people, and society plays a big role in its fostering and proliferation—and also in its eventual eradication.
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Maria Hazel S. Parcon, 20, is a fourth-year architecture student at the University of St. Louis Tuguegarao. She is the vice president of the United Architects of the Philippines, student auxiliary USL chapter, and a member of the Louisan Debate Society.
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