OPINION

September 19, 2007 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Respect Our Religion By Amirah Ali Lidasan

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro should listen to UN Rapporteur on Racism about the danger of Islamophobia.

I wish that the UN report delivered by Doudou Diene, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, will strike at the heart of Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro who announced earlier gave signal to the military to continue their offensives despite of the Ramadhan.

In his speech at the UN Human Rights Council this month, the UN Rapporteur commented that media and political leaders in Europe ‘were equating Islam with violence and terrorism’ and some were even seeking to ‘silence religious practices.’

It is so insensitive of the defense secretary not to think about the plight of the Moro people and not to respect our religion and culture. If military operation would push through, it would be difficult for some Muslims to fully observe fasting, as military operation would mean displacement of people, a very strenuous activity for a person who is supposed to refuse food and water the whole day. Not to mention the tension brought about by constant reminder that war is at hand and that a day or so a bomb would fall in their communities or hit people.

More than 24,000 residents of Basilan and Sulu have been displaced because of the military operation directed against Abu Sayyaf men who were accused of beheading ten elements of the Philippine Marines on July 10, 2007.

In the past, the military operations always involve the displacement of families and individuals, sometimes the whole population of one village. Displacement would mean, families expecting their crops to be harvested will find it difficult to come back to their communities, or they risk being hit by shrapnel of bombs. That’s precisely what happened to Sarah Lumandog, a mother of ten-month old baby who was hit on the leg on August — while trying to harvest her crops in Ulangkaya Pukan town in Basilan, the site where the marines were supposed to find the presence of the Abu Sayyaf.

A Muslim in fasting has to have his or her community with him or her. It is not just about fasting for the whole day but also a community gathering in the evening and a gathering for congregational prayers in the evening until dawn.

Moros in Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines even go home to their provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao just so they could be with their families on September 12, the first evening before the day of fasting, the day that we Muslims cleanse ourselves and pray for our intention to fast for the month of Ramadhan.

Fasting is supposed to cleanse oneself of impure thoughts. Imagine what all the Moro integrees of the Philippine Army are thinking when they are ordered to attack their fellow Moro communities while in fasting? I wonder if Secretary Teodoro and AFP chief Hermogenes Esperon would issue the same war directives during Christmas time.

In the Philippines, it is easy to use the Abu Sayyaf menace and terrorism to mask religious intolerance of some political leaders of our country when it is very clear that most of the anti-terror policies have affected the Muslim’s observance of Islam.

It is still fresh in our minds how the military bombarded a mosque and the houses in Buliok and Pikit in North Cotabato during the Eid’l Adha on February 11 in 2003 as a way to flush out the the Moro Islamic Liberation Front whom then defense secretary Angelo Reyes accused as terrorists. And the eating of roasted in pigs inside a mosque in then Camp Abubakar during a military operation in May 2000 which was supposedly participated in by no less than former President Joseph Estrada.

Our fellow Filipinos are becoming wary of our Mosques and madrasahs (madaris) which are being tagged as terrorist training camps with their ustadz (asatadiz) being accused as terrorists. It is unfair that with the warrant of arrest issued to catch those who beheaded the ten marines, the 15 ustadz who were included could not come forward and clear their names.

It is unfair for Ustadz Tuan Yang in Talipao, Sulu whose face was put in place of the real Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan in a booklet released by the US troops.

I do hope that Secretary Teodoro and the AFP would give the Moro people a pause in the military operation, even for the duration of Ramadhan. This would mean a lot for our Muslim brothers and sisters, that for a time we were seen first as Muslims than as terrorists here in our country.

Ramadhan Kareem and Ramadhan Mubarak to all!

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