The ‘Muslim type’

'We are feared as we are always, always seen as the criminals'

How unfortunate that even now, some people still look at Muslims with discrimination and hate in their eyes. After all these years, little has changed.

I am a Muslim. Do I look like I’m carrying a bomb? Do I look like a terrorist to you? Do I look like someone who is capable of killing innocent people? Do I look like I might murder you where you stand?

Last week, a powerful bomb ripped through a bus in Zamboanga City, killing 1 person and wounding around 50 others.

The usual suspect? A Muslim.

A sketch of the suspect doing the rounds on social media describes him as someone who “used Tagalog language” and was a “Muslim type.”

The “Muslim type” apparently meant that the suspect looked like a Muslim or sounded like a Muslim or wore something that hinted he was a Muslim.

The sketch was released by the National Bureau of Investigation Region 9 which, in the past, was slow to act on their job. The NBI was surprisingly quick this time; in fact, so quick that it exposed how, as an agency of the government, it can easily judge and implant hate. (READ: DOJ orders probe into NBI agents over ‘Muslim type’ tag)

The description clearly proves the anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia dangerously simmering within many of us.

We are reminded of the 14-year-old Muslim in Texas, Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested and treated like a criminal after he brought a home-made electronic clock to school. He has hopes of becoming an engineer, but a teacher and the Irving Police treated him like a criminal instead.

We are reminded of a Muslim mother onboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Florida to Detroit with her children, who was harassed in February. A woman first complained that Darlene Hider’s children were being disruptive. But after noticing her hijab, the woman reportedly told her, “This is America!” Hinder felt so small, especially with her children around, witnessing the display of bigotry and Islamophobia.

In the Philippines, Muslims have long been the objects of discrimination and prejudice for many decades.

We are seen as barbaric, a community that resorts to violence to resolve conflicts. 

We are feared as we are always, always seen as the criminals. We are the ones behind every bomb attack in the country, every massacre, every murder, every robbery, every abduction, every rape, every case of corruption. 

We are seen as capable of everything that is evil.

But there are good Muslims, they say. The good Muslims are dead Muslims.

Yes, there are dangerous Muslims. Muslims who are drug lords. Muslims who are war lords. There are murderers among us. There are corrupt Muslims.

But there are dangerous Christians, too. Christians who are drug lords. Christians who are war lords. There are many Christian murderers. And certainly, a horde of corrupt Christians.

But you don’t see an NBI report identifying a suspect as a “Christian-type” – or “Cebuano-type” or “Ilocano-type” or “Ilongo-type.”

The poison brought by Islamophobia has resulted in the suffering of many Muslims. There are countless stories of Muslim professionals unable to find jobs easily because of their hijab or because of their names – the “Muslim-type” names.

It is because of this that many Muslims are languishing now in Philippine jails, many of them mistakenly arrested fior suspicion of terrorism.

In Davao City, there is a real estate company that refuses to sell condo units to Muslims, despite a city ordinance that bans discrimination based on gender, color or religion. This is true despite Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s support for the passage of the ordinance.

A close friend of mine, a proud Tausug from Basilan, is often mistaken as a non-Muslim. 

Parang hindi ka Muslim kasi maputi ka (You don’t look like a Muslim because you have fair skin)” or “Parang hindi ka Muslim kasi ang bait mo (You don’t seem like a Muslim because you’re nice)” are just  some of the comments that he often gets. These comments never flatter him, as they never should. Always he takes offense, feeling that his identity is belied by the color of his skin or his manners perceived as mild compared to others.

That the NBI describes a suspect as Muslim-type is evidence of deeply-rooted prejudice. That people in law enforcement possess this kind of prejudice is no small matter. This same prejudice poisons them and allows them to justify trumped-up charges, illegal arrests, and human rights violations against my fellow Muslims. 

The NBI sketch is proof that the poison is still within us. –

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