The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should be more mindful of its statements pertaining to madrasas or Muslim schools, especially when associating them with violent extremism and terrorism.
Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman said this after AFP Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay told members of the foreign press that security forces are looking into the possibility of radicalization in madrasas to explain the growing number of suicide bombers in the Philippines.
“The armed forces should not be making general statements linking madrasas to terrorists without presenting irrefutable proof of its existence. It is dangerous and unfair, and it serves no real purpose but to unjustly put our schools in a very compromising situation,” Hataman, former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said.
“While I also share the deep concern of the armed forces on the existence of Filipino suicide bombers at present, I would not go as far as to associate these terrorists with our madrasas. Our schools are institutions of peace and learning and are not breeding grounds for violent extremists and terrorists,” the Mindanaoan added.
Hataman said it will better serve the AFP to file the appropriate charges against certain persons if they have the necessary evidence, and refrain from making sweeping generalizations on Muslim schools, as this sets a dangerous precedent.
“Bilang isang magulang, natatakot ako sa statement na ito ng AFP. Paano kung ang anak ko ay nag-aaral sa isang madrasa? Ano ang mararamdaman ng mga estudyante na sila pala ay iniimbestigahan na? Kawawa ang mga bata (As a parent, this statement from AFP frightens me. What if my child attends a madrasa? How will the children feel now that they are being investigated? I pity them),” he said.
Aside from students, teachers and school officials will also be adversely affected by these statements since it will only fuel speculations and further discrimination against the Muslim community, he added.
“Like the police profiling issue involving Muslim students in Metro Manila early this year, associating madrasas with terrorism is the kind of act that makes terrorists, not prevent them. We are only encouraging disillusionment instead of enlightenment among our young. Kaya ito delikado (That’s why this is dangerous),” the human rights activist-solon said.
Hataman had earlier said that in order to eliminate terrorism in the country, the government should address the roots of terrorism and implement pro-active measures through the concerted efforts of the security forces, local government units, communities, religious leaders, and the families of those who joined violent extremists.
As ARMM regional governor, Hataman established the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) that led to the surrender of more than 200 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Basilan, his home province. He also filed a bill that calls for the establishment of a PAVE-like program nationwide.
“Wala na halos Abu Sayyaf sa Basilan dahil nagtulong-tulong ang lahat para sugpuin ang terorismo sa aming lalawigan (We’ve almost cleared Basilan of Abu Sayyaf, thanks to the cooperation of all toward ending terrorism in the province). We can do this on a national scale. Napatunayan na namin na mas epektibo ito laban sa terorismo (We’ve proven that this is a more effective way to address terrorism),” he said.