Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sulu governor urges military chief to retract sensitive statement

SULU GOVERNOR Sakur Tan branded as preposterous the statement of Philippine military chief General Gilbert Gapay that madaris or Islamic schools in the province are suspected of radicalizing students.

Gov. Sakur Tan with President Rodrigo Duterte in Jolo town where the Filipino leader offered flowers for those who perished in the August 2020 twin bombings. 

Gapay’s statement also drew criticisms from Muslims.

“I join the many Muslim voices, to include that of Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman, on the Madrasa issue. I do agree that to have come from no less than the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, saying that Islamic Schools in the country can be possible hotbeds of terrorism or to link Madrasa to terrorism, is both absurd and uncalled for.,” Tan said.

He added: “Indeed such statements coming from a supposedly high and responsible officer of the Armed Forces, is not one we expect from a respectable officer and a gentleman. We are certain that the good General has no ill intent.”

The influential governor said during this time when the country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is incumbent on everyone to be prudent and avoid tearing the threads of wounds that are yet to heal.

“I cannot blame Muslims if they harbor resentment and disappointment that the specter of profiling and typecasting of people based on their faith, still lingers in the midst. To put in question an institution where most, if not all Muslim children, had their first foundation of good morals based on Islam as a religion of peace, is to infer that Muslims in their primal are already branded unkindly,” he said.

Tan urged Gapay to retract his statement. “I join the various groups and individuals, in calling on General Gapay - with respect as Muslims are taught to be at an early age - to withdraw or retract his statement in reference to the Madrasa issue. Let us allow sobriety and goodwill to prevail,” he said.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman with Governor Sakur Tan.

Basilan Congressman Mujiv Hataman who was former Muslim autonomous regional governor said Gapay’s statement is dangerous and unfair.

The Armed Forces should not be making general statements linking madrasa 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, himself studied in madrasah, said.

Hataman said these institutions only advocate for peace and learning and are not breeding grounds for violent extremists and terrorists.

“Hindi ako kailanman nakarinig ng kahit na anong turo ng tungkol sa terorismo. Sa katunayan, tinuturuan kami dito na huwag gumawa ng masama at manakit ng kapwa. 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?” said Hataman, a former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Gapay said they are monitoring madaris and other schools in Sulu where “some sort of radicalization activities are going on.”

Aside from madaris, he said terrorist groups are also recruiting you on social media.

“One of the media or vehicles they are using is the social media. We have found out from some of those who surrendered and captured that quite a number of them have been recruited and radicalized through social media,” Gapay said, adding, this could be the reason why Filipino Abu Sayyaf militant Norman Lasuca blew himself up near a military base in Sulu’s Indanan town in June last year.

“We cannot imagine a Filipino really being recruited or being used as a suicide bomber. Usually, we expect that that suicide bombers would be foreign terrorists that have slipped here in our country, but we were really surprised when we had that first incident in 2019 in the person of Mr. Lasuca. It was really an eye opener for us that the effort to recruit, to radicalize, and even mold the suicide bomber out of Filipinos is really at that level,” he added.

According to the Lowy Institute, an independent and nonpartisan think tank based in Sydney, Lasuca’s domestic life raises more questions as to the pathway he took to become a suicide bomber.

It said Lasuca was of mixed parentage - he lived in Sulu with his Tausug mother and Muslim convert father. He ran away from home due to his abusive father, founding succour with purported members of the Abu Sayyaf in 2014. It is unknown if he was involved in other Abu Sayyaf operations prior to the one that took his life.

There was no immediate statement from former Muslim secessionist leader and now Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro autonomous region Murad Ebrahim on Gapay’s sensitive statement. (Mindanao Examiner)

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