February 20, 2018, 4:09 pm
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Much ado about IDs

MANY pundits and government officials immediately weighed in with comments about the report that Muslims in Paniqui, Tarlac are being given identification cards (IDs), presumably with the undesirable effect of segregating them from the rest of the residents.

The report elicited a wide range of opinions, mostly condemnation, from officials of the Comelec, columnists, social media writers, police officers and others that even Malacañang had to issue a clarification that the national policy is not IDs for Muslims only but an identification system for all Filipinos.

This animated conversation about Muslim IDs could not have become a serious debate had the Marawi siege not occurred. That May 23 attack by Islamic State-inspired local jihadists with the help of Asian cohorts invariably left in the Filipino psyche sinister emotions of fear and intimidation. In the West, where IS presence was first brutally introduced thru roadside blasts, suicide bombings, and vehicle attacks, the term Islamophobia has been introduced in the vocabulary to refer to this feeling.

Thus, many Filipinos including those in the media, are careful not to prick Muslim sensibilities on the topic of IDs.

But let us look at it this way. If a group of Jose Rizal fanatics who have established a religion honoring the national hero as god, as they do in some parts of the Sierra Madre in Laguna and Quezon, and if they decide to issue a membership ID for their own purpose, would it violate any law or social mores? Would it even merit a comment from anybody?

If some Catholic women decide to print IDs for themselves to signify their devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, who cares -- it would not even create a dent in the day’s news lineup.

The explanations by Misangcad Datumaas, president of the Paniqui United Muslim Association (Puma) and Abdul Jabbar, coordinator of the United Muslims Association of Tarlac City (Umat) that the issuance of IDs was not introduced or imposed by mayors or the local police are timely.

This should put to rest the apprehension of many that Filipino Muslims are being discriminated against by this local ID policy.

Datumaas and Jabbar both explained that some legitimate Muslim settlers in Tarlac need these IDs to transact business with the government and private entities. They explained that even in the ordinary acts of buying a ticket for a ride on an airplane and entering the airport gate, one needs an ID card.

The Muslim leaders also said they only wanted to be sure that they won’t encounter problems with terrorists and bad elements.

These Muslims in Tarlac have a legitimate organization and are well within their rights to identify themselves, so let them be.
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