Being a Muslim in the Philippines is seen in so many lenses we cannot even imagine.

Some are hidden behind the interpretation of mass media, the views of the general public, and sometimes our own stereotypes.

In the Philippines, we have been taught in schools only of “one” history.  A history that points out to the country alone from colonization to modernization. The oneness of this so called nation, have set aside its bountiful culture, its diversity, and its uniqueness that calls for the “reality” of being the Philippines. Yet, we can no longer filter the embeded-ness of the truth that lies in this country so called a work in progress. AFS’ initiative to start a Dialogue on what Being a Muslim is in the Philippines is one of the start for us Filipinos to open our eyes to the truth and to our reality – we are diverse as a country.

Filipinos are not just mere Filipinos.

Maybe it’s time that we whole heartedly embrace our being an archipelago, a country that is regionalistic, and consider it as one of our best advantage – our edge among the rest.

No matter how we unify ourselves as a country, our unique identity of being a part of a specific region would always be in us. Well, we cannot blame anybody for that, for it has been innate in our nature. We cannot dictate how people should react or act in a specific circumstance, but we can always learn how to accept and be open-minded about the fact that “no matter how one we are, we still are different” and the other way around.

This does not only apply in the Philippines, but to people in general.

In fact, the panelists present in the AFS Dialogue last June 9,  2018 at Hotel H20 Manila have concretized the reasons why.

Catholics may not generally be good or Muslims may not be generally bad as people say. In fact, regardless of our religion or of our culture it is our own personal decision to act and behave the way we use to be. Our religion no matter what it is only tells us to do good and be good, yet our choice to either deviate or not lies within us.

Muslims have Ramadan. Catholics have Holy Week. Even though there is no intention to compare and contrast what it is or what it is meant for, our society have pushed us to create a standard which we must always look for. A standard that does not really mean that it is right, but a standard that means it is done by the many. But, one thing is for sure, the other may be done by the majority while the other by the minority and yet both are practiced in honor of God and in order to sacrifice to glorify His name.

In fact the word “Tagwa”, as one of the panel members Mr. Adzhar Madjid, have said is a word that Muslims refers to as the “state of the heart that motivate virtuous conduct and prevents evil action”. Thus, Islam, as a religion, is an agent of good.Yet historical truths and realities of the present has been projected to us filtered and with a lot of exclusion as mentioned by another panelist, Dr. Abraham Sakili.

Moreover, Ms. Armieyah Ayob, AFS National Director have shared her experience and difficulties as a Muslim in the Metro. From ensuring that food served in the table is halal and from avoiding the fact that she might be called as an “Abusayaf”, as one of her colleagues has experienced, has been a part of her daily struggle.

With all the different stories gathered in that single event, it all points out to the fact. That we Filipinos, both Muslim and Catholics, are deprived of the “truth”. Thus, we who are privileged to the know that Mindanao has a different history from the rest of the Philippines, that Muslims are good in so many ways, and that the Philippines is largely culturally embedded must be the first to educate and make people aware.

We have been deprived for a long time now. Now is the best time to act and to inform our society of what has to be known. Thus, it is our mission to act proudly of who we are.

Muslims, always take to heart the simple saying “I am a Muslim.”
Wear you hijabs and lift your chin up. Practice what you know is right, for what is important is that you know who you are and what you believe regardless of what other people say. Set aside all the hear says and judgements, be proud of who you are no matter how different you think you are. Catholics and other religions of the society have yet to learn a lot about you, educate them and forgive them if needed.

Imagine that it is all in the mind. If you think you are different, then you will be. But, if you think that you are one with them, then you are. It is vital that in the crowd where all the people practice the same usual thing, you know what makes you stand out. In that mere moment, you will realize that no matter how different we all are, we are all one and the same.