A lawmaker has cautioned the Armed Forces leadership against painting madrasas or Muslim schools as possible breeding grounds for terrorists.
“I am a product of a madrasa where I studied for five years. I have never heard, not even once, any teaching about terrorism. In fact, we were taught not do anything bad and not to hurt other people,” Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said.
Hataman took exception to the statement of Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay that security forces are looking into the possibility of radicalization in madrasas as a possible explanation to 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,” said Hataman, a former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“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 to our madrasas. Our schools are institutions of peace and learning, and are not breeding grounds for violent extremists and terrorist,” he added.
Hataman challenged the AFP to file appropriate cases if has proof of its claims.
Otherwise, the military should refrain from making sweeping generalizations against Muslim schools as this sets a dangerous precedent.
“As a parent, I am fearful of the AFP statement. What if my child studies in a madrasa? What will the students feel if their school is being investigated? I pity the children,” he said.
Aside from students, teachers and school officials will so be put in danger by the “rash statements” that only fuel speculations and further discrimination against the Muslim community, Hataman said.
“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,” he added.