Standing up against Islamophobia through solidarity

By Feline Mikee Z. Cervantes

MANILA, Dec. 8 (PNA) — With the Nov. 13 Paris terrorist attacks and ensuing bombings further entrenching Islamophobia in global affairs, deep-seated prejudice and bias against Muslims have become more manifest.

The stigma lies in the pervasive association of Muslims to acts of terrorism and violence, thereby creating a divide grounded on fear and causing unmerited resentment toward them.

“Even if Islamophobia does not translate into violence, it inflicts pain and leaves deep scars,” said Security Reform Initiative Executive Director Kathline Telosa during the Stories of Bangsamoro Forum on Tuesday at the Torre Venezia Hotel in Quezon City.

Telosa defines Islamophobia as an exaggerated fear or hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetrated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, marginalization and exclusion from political and civic life.

The entrenchment of Islamophobia leads to the Muslim Filipino’s exclusion from jobs, education, housing and business opportunities.

According to the 2005 Philippine Human Development Reports, about 33 percent to 39 percent of Filipinos are biased against Muslims.

Furthermore, studies showed that the prejudice and stigma is also attributed to misleading and absence of media standard on reporting and portraying the Bangsamoro, limited inclusion and discussion of the Bangsamoro in the Philippine educational system, and weak understanding of Islam and its diversity, which in the end fuels and propagates Islamophobia.

Eradicating prejudice through “pakikipagkapwa”

“Deep-seated prejudices, attitudes and views cannot be easily dispelled. What we need is more education, exposure to and engagement with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” argued Telosa.

She mentioned that “forums such as this contribute in building the consciousness of the rest of the nation on the Bangsamoro history and culture.”

Telosa delved on the term “kapwa” which she defined as the unity with the self and others — building a shared identity with the other as well as equality.

Equality does not translate to imposing Muslims to be like us, rather it is acknowledging our differences and uniqueness from each other.

“In our ‘pakikipagkapwa’, we enjoin everyone to accept and respect our Muslim brothers and sisters as equals and give them the dignity that we afford to ourselves,” Telosa stressed, appreciating unity in solidarity.

“Let us acknowledge that no matter how different we are, we share fundamental, universal experiences — such as fear, love, suffering, passion, commitment — as fellow Filipinos, as fellow human beings. And through this, we form our shared identity. Through this, we start seeing each other as ‘kapwa,’” she added.

Stories of Bangsamoro is a multimedia effort by Batch 4 graduates of the Academy of Political Management by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

It started in social media with a Facebook page sharing culling stories from Filipino Muslims around the country and culminated with a forum and photo exhibit at the Torre Venezia Hotel.

The initiative aims to help eradicate prevailing prejudice against the Bangsamoro people. (PNA)