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Sisyphus’ Lament

‘Je suis Muslim na mananakop’

SINGAPORE—Non-Muslim Filipinos overlooked the phrase “Muslim na mananakop” (invaders) used by a candidate in the presidential debate last March 20. We jump on foreign Twitter antidiscrimination bandwagons, yet miss their point at home.

Mananakop unintentionally characterizes Muslims as outsiders in land their forebears lived in for centuries. No malice was intended. The candidate referred to the Moro National Liberation Front’s three-week siege of Zamboanga City in 2013 which displaced over 100,000 people. His party has been consistently attacked for its uncompromising support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

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But no one even noticed the phrase. Not the competitors hitting him hard in the no-holds-barred debate. Not even the live audience, who booed loudly at times.

Livid Facebook reactions from Muslim friends were immediate, but media only picked up the phrase the following day, after condemnation from various groups ranging from the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Passing coverage ended after Mujiv Hataman, the respected Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, affirmed the candidate meant no offense.

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This is not new. After Zamboanga City’s Labuan bus terminal was bombed on Sept. 18, 2015, “TV Patrol Chavacano” posted a National Bureau of Investigation sketch of the suspect on Facebook. It had a note that read: “Muslim type.”

Many in the region indignantly asked how a suspect can look Muslim, as it is not an ethnicity. Muslims, including Hataman himself, spontaneously posted their pictures on Facebook with the words: “I am a ‘Muslim type’ and I am not a bomber.’” Admirably, police immediately apologized and vowed to be more sensitive.

But did you even hear about this? I am proud that the Inquirer immediately ran a commentary from journalist Nesreen Cadar Abdulrauf (“‘Muslim Type’ NBI sketch is against the law,” Opinion, 9/23/15), which asked government to be the most sensitive adherent to the Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act of 2011.

Beyond our Muslim brethren, when Rep. Manny Pacquiao publicly opined that homosexuals are “mas masahol pa sa hayop” (worse than animals), many defended the statement even after Pacquiao himself apologized. Arguments ranged from Pacquiao merely restating the Bible to the statement being fair since gay comedians make fun of Pacquiao and his mother.

Although Boy Abunda and Vice Ganda voiced impassioned disapproval and the University of the Philippines Babaylan produced a satirical video with members describing what animal they were, few non-LGBT political and sports leaders in the Philippines echoed disapproval, unlike abroad.

A prominent doctor-alumnus spoke at Xavier School’s recent high school graduation. He ended with health advice on “sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, [drunk] driving and homosexuality.” He highlighted: “90 percent of HIV-AIDS [cases] recorded in the country were acquired and transmitted through homosexual acts. No judgment please, these are just the facts/figures.”

Seventeen-year-old Ethan Chua, the top graduating student (and editor in chief of the school paper Stallion, Inquirer Young Blood contributor, Science Guild president, and incoming Stanford freshman), protested how the enumeration was discriminatory in his “Medium” blog. He very logically argued: “unlike smoking, drinking, drugs and so on, homosexuality is not a choice, and as such cannot be a vice.”

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Chua called for greater sensitivity against stigmatization when a senior representative of a health-care institution speaks at a public event. He recalled how religious leaders lobbied with legislators against the Reproductive Health Act and cautioned on the “conflict between private morality and public duty.” Chua’s response was so powerful one might mistake it for a Randy David column.

Again, admirably, Xavier immediately posted on its website the full speech, Chua’s response, and an apology from the doctor. But again, no one but Chua noticed. Not even the speaker who wanted to talk about health, not to make social commentary.

As still another example, reports on the Bangladesh money laundering issue keep using the phrase “Chinese-Filipino businessman.” Chinese ethnicity obviously has no connection to money laundering. It is too often highlighted in contexts where no one would similarly describe someone as Ilonggo or Ilocano. So what information does the label add? When I was Chua’s age, I wrote to the Inquirer about the curiously frequent use of “Chinese” and “Muslim” labels in media, especially in crime reports.

I recall feeling alone after writing the first public protest against national artist F. Sionil José and his call for Chinese-Filipinos to proclaim their loyalty. Few non-Chinese writers, such as the Inquirer’s Boying Pimentel, echoed such protest, even though Chinese-Filipino writers have been denouncing José’s public racism for decades. My initial column was even titled, “Anti-Chinese-Filipino slurs are invisible” (Opinion, 6/15/15).

Again, I am proud the Inquirer published a series of indignant columns against this from extremely credentialed 20-year-old Ateneo, MIT and Columbia students such as Joshua Cheng, Carmela Lao and Arnold Lau.

Easter celebrates not just Jesus’ triumph over death, but his call to make his Gospel a universal one, spread to men of all nations. It is the perfect time to reflect how we lament 3-year-old Alan

Kurdi’s death on a Turkish beach but overlook “Muslim na mananakop,” retweet the US hashtag #LoveWins but refuse to condemn “mas masahol pa sa hayop,” and demonize Donald Trump’s wall yet humor loyalty checks for Chinese-Filipinos.

And when it is good men who overlook all these, we must reflect even harder.

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React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan

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TAGS: BBL, discrimination, ethnicity, Islam, Muslim, Muslim na mananakop, opinion, racist
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