According to 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are more than 6 million Filipinos who are practicing Muslims. That’s more than 6% of the country’s total population. Outside of Muslim Mindanao, they are the minority. As such, they often aren’t the intended audience or even a considered population when public spaces are designed.
One netizen who identifies as both born Muslim and as a practicing member of the Islamic faith, Katami Alingan Dimapunong, penned and posted an open letter to discuss discrimination to the LGBTQI+ community, particularly to tell them that they aren’t the only people facing difficulties and that they should definitely stop “abusing” the term discrimination.
Dimapunong recounts the daily difficulties he faces practicing his identity and faith. There are times when no food around him is Halal. His friends will eat pork in front of him, not realizing the offense they were committing. There are no prayer rooms in public places or plazas, or at least not nearly enough. Even public restroom are difficult, as there is no ablution area, so they have to use the sink to cleanse for prayer.
But this doesn’t mean that people who do use these facilities or design them are Islamophobes. Dimapunong asks “Finacebook live ko ba yung mga event organizers at sinabing “discriminatory” silang lahat? Nag-skandalo ba ako sa mga pamunuan ng public domains na meron dapat mga ablution areas at prayer rooms para sa aming mga Muslim?”
He continues to say that his birth as a Muslim and his active choice to practice Islam put him in the minority. He acknowledges that not everyone agrees or understands his way of life, but he chose it and that’s just what happens when you are in a minority.
He acknowledged that not all his needs as a Muslim will be filled, especially in public spaces or in places where Islam is tiny demographic of the population. He says that it is good to have a proper space or resources, but if there is none, he will find a way to make himself comfortable and keep his life as he wants it.
He also clarifies that this does not mean that he doesn’t advocate for his fellow Muslims or Islam. He actively participates in the conversation about Islam and raises awareness about his faith.
But people being ignorant of the specific plights and challenges facing a minority group should not be confused with discrimination.
The post concludes with:
“For 13 years living in a predominantly non-muslim country and 5 years studying in a Catholic university, I don’t expect everybody to provide me with all my needs. What I am now, and how people treat me fairly from across my sphere of influence is a product of respect that I’ve constantly built without forcing them to accept my beliefs.
Because if you truly want to be understood and respected? Don’t demand, EARN it.”
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