October 06, 2015
On Being Muslim and Discriminated

A Filipino Muslim thinks religious discrimination has become too epidemic, too invasive.

by Yarah Musa
Issues // Politics and Society
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We are living in an era of pervasive discrimination, racism, and social inequality. We are living in a world where we are easily judged. Every day, we wake up to a society where freedom is not always an option.

Discrimination among Muslims has been too obvious lately.

A few months ago, Tahera Ahmad was denied an unopened soda can on an affiliated U.S. domestic flight. Why? The flight attendant said Ahmad might use the can as a weapon. Last month, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in Texas for bringing a home-made clock to school. Ben Carson, Republican U.S. presidential candidate, also recently said that no Muslim should ever become the US president.

Meanwhile, in Zamboanga City, news broke about a suspected bomber who was then labeled as a “Muslim type.”

Now, what do these mean? Aren't these manifestations of discrimination, inequality, and oppression? Where is social justice now? Why are we being judged just because we wear a veil? Why are we being judged just because we are Muslims?




'Islamophobia'

I have been wondering why a non-Muslim can grow his beard without any fear of being suspected of bad intentions. But when a Muslim sports a beard, there is a high chance he would be labeled an extremist. 

I have been wondering why nuns can cover themselves from head to toe, but when an Islam sister does this, she is often misjudged. I have been wondering why, when a person protects his land, he is called a hero; but when a Muslim does it, he is tagged as a terrorist.

I wasn't aware of the term “Islamophobia." Don’t you think it’s too nasty? Don’t you think it disrespects Muslims?

Are we really living in a free world if Chinese-Muslims are prohibited from "fasting," one of Islam's pillars, during the holy month of Ramadan?

Don’t you think it is useless declaring a holiday when the actual day isn’t the declared one? How can you expect Muslims to feel the essence of the two most important feasts of Islam community when they need to rush to work or school after Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast) or Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) prayer? It happened not just once.

Inhumane

The suffering of Muslims in the Philippines is inhumane. But I also believe that our Muslim brothers and sisters from other parts of the world are even more oppressed.

Religious discrimination has become too epidemic, too invasive. It is now or never – discrimination has to end. Imagine a world where religion and race are no longer issues. It is the kind of world I bet we would all want to live in.

Discrimination is the root of human division, and it has to disappear. Otherwise, wars will never end. It must be scratched out from people’s mind or else the youth will never learn to correct their misconceptions.

We also need to focus on cultivating human relations, regardless of differences in gender, nationality, religious faith, class, education, among other factors. For a simple reason: because we are all human. We are all the same; we all want to be respected.

We should never forget past achievements like the African-Americans who fought for their civil rights in the US, and the women who fought for equality. Muslims are also struggling to fight for their rights, we are also aiming to be truly accepted in this society.
I am optimistic of a future where the world has no vacancy for discrimination because it will be filled with peace, love, and harmony. And that future starts now, as we end discrimination now. 

Yarah Musa is a first year Legal Management student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. She is a Rappler Mover in Basilan.

This story was first published in Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.