Saturday July 21, 2018

Lidasan: An antidote against Islamophobia

ISLAMOPHOBES are on high mode of attack once again. We can see their hatred, intolerance, bigotry, and unreasonable attack on Muslims all over the world. They blame innocent Muslims in their countries of the crimes, terrorist acts, and aggression of the self-proclaimed righteous jihadists.

Oxford online dictionary defines Islamophobia as "dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force." The word Islamophobes refers to the person with dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

I remember an article written by my brother in Islam and colleague in Al Qalam Institute, NCMF Commissioner Yusuf Morales, back in 2014.

Commissioner Morales defines “Islamophobia” as "bigotry and prejudice coupled with malice and hate whether conscious or subconscious focused on one particular race or distinction." Like "Anti-Semitism [which is] anger and hate directed towards Jews… Islamophobia is [anger and hate] directed towards Muslims and Islam."

As Muslims, what do we do? How do we handle “Islamophobia” in our country today?

The basic way to act and deal with Islamophobia is to educate ourselves and educate our Filipino brethren about Islam.

We must understand that Islam confirms almost all Biblical and Hebrew Prophets as the Prophets of Islam. As prophets, they brought with them a message of peace, love and tolerance as the key principle in life. These messages are also the messages of Islam and confirmed in the Holy Qur’an.

As Muslims, let us learn the moral and ethical code of Islam which is similar to Judaism, Christianity and many other major world faiths and religions. Cultural diversity and theological concepts and practices may differ. We may also differ in terms of our ways and methods of worship of Allah (SWT) and our world view about how morality and ethics should govern all spheres and aspects of our human life.

As Muslims, we must read and learn about Sahîfat al-Madinah, also known as the Constitution of Medina. This document showed how our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) legislated for a multi-religious society, based on tolerance, equality, and justice. Our faith and religion recognizes diversity and enjoins us to live in a pluralistic and multi cultural society.

The Constitution of Madina provides each religious group, cultural and legal autonomy. The people of Madina (Jews, Christians, and Ansars) were equal before laws with Muslims. There was no law or code demanding their subjection. The Constitution of Madina bounded Muslims, Christians, and Jews the same duties. This document defined them as one community, or ummah, a word that is now used almost exclusively with reference to the Muslim community.

As a Member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, I made sure that the New Bangsamoro Basic Law recognizes religious diversity and religious freedom. The New BBL shows semblance of the principles and values of the Constitution of Madina.

The New BBL aims to work for the common good of the people in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro. Mufti Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony in United Kingdom said in one of his speech, “Muslims, Jews and Christian share similar core values of respect of human life and dignity, and profound commitment to charity and the common good”. He added, “there are five common values in all major religions and faiths in the World: honesty and sincerity, compassion and love, sacrifice and selflessness, a sense of justice and a sense of fairness, patience and perseverance are values, which all religions cherish, is to state the obvious.” These principles and values are embedded within this proposed bill.

Going back to the article of Commissioner Morales, he said: “the entrenchment of Islamophobia is felt in schools, institutions and most significantly in Media, and it must be immediately confronted and addressed.”

He proposed the following points of integration (more of a wish list according to him) for eliminating Islamophobia and discrimination of Muslims in non-Muslim countries for policymakers:

• Muslims are able to fully participate in the political, cultural, social and economic life in the country.

• Their voices are heard and held in the same respect as the voices of other communities and groups.

• Their contributions, individually and collectively will be acknowledged and accepted as part of the country’s heritage.

• Islamophobic behavior will no longer be tolerated in public and publicly condemned.

• Legal sanctions on religious discrimination and dealt with severely

• The state system acknowledges an inclusivity allowing the entry of religious care and addressing the educational, medical, cultural and other concerns of Muslims. One good indicator would be the academic achievement of Muslim students would stand equal to the academic standings of students from other groups.

• Institutions are compliant to legal provisions that demonstrate regard for cultural diversity.

Commissioner Morales and I are now part of the government and can propose policy reforms. In Shaa Allah (God willing), we can help address Islamophobia and problems of violent extremism in our country today.