Being an Islam follower in an era of ISIS and Abu Sayaff terrorists can be very discriminating and painful. How do I say so? Well, maybe because I’ve experienced it firsthand and it really sucks as hell. I’ve heard different stereotypical statements and discriminating remarks from everyone and I can’t say that those didn’t really hurt me. Regardless, I stay cool — at least most of the time.
I was born and bred in an Islam family. My parents are both Islam. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and siblings are Islam. Basically, everyone in our family was pure Muslims. We’ve come from a tribe called “Maguindanaos” and based from what I’ve heard, we are the kindest tribe among other tribes of Muslims. We don’t typically join wars. We promote peace. That’s why I love my kind. But I’m really not sure if that applies to everyone or if that fact is a hundred percent true.
Nevertheless, as Muslim people, whether from the same or different tribe, we’re always subjected to different kinds of discrimination.Whether it’s subtle or blunt, andwhether it’s in a powerful country or in a third world country — like the Philippines. I know because it happened to me. I heard people joking about my food preference, my praying habits, etc. But just like what I’ve said, I’ve always tried not to take all those remarks seriously. I try to make things light and less painful as much as possible.
But I’m not a saint!
There are just things that you can’t make less painful and less unfair. There’s always unfairness in this universe. And other people don’t know how to stop unless you face them headfirst.
I lost a prospective job because I’m a Muslim
Last January 2017, I applied to Company X as Charity Account Officer. I really liked the post since it’s kind of close to CSR or corporate social responsibility. I want to give back to nature and people. So,I’ve been very diligent in studying all the facts about their company because I want to leave a good impression and to be ready, of course. I’ve tried learning the job’s responsibilities and I’ve assessed myself to meet the job’s requirements. I’m all ready for the interview and exams. But as it turns out, all my efforts are wasted just because of one tiny fact: I’m a Muslim!
At first, I didn’t take it seriously. I was trying to negotiate because I don’t want to go home empty handed, especially when I’ve gone to too many obstacles just to meet them.Imagine the money and effort that I’ve invested. So I tried to ask the interviewer politely,“Why?”, and this was what she said: her employers were Hebrews who don’t like Muslims for the following reasons, a) Israelis’ war with ISIS, b) Israelis don’t get along with Muslims as according to biblehistory (idk?), and c) she (the interviewer) had a bad experience with Muslims during her days in Middle East.
That’s what I thought. I’m already having these million thoughts/questions in my head that I wanted her to know/answer. Like for example, why didn’t you put that in your company information so that I can immediately drop you off before all these things get started? Or, why didn’t you check first my resume before calling me for an interview and wasting my time? It was all stated in my Jobstreet information so WTH?!And what do those reasons have to do with my qualifications for the job? Have I hurt someone from being a Muslim? Have I ruined the reputation of your company because I’m a Muslim?
I would have completely understood if you’ve rejected me because I’m not capable or because I didn’t pass your exam and interview or because I have criminal records, not because ISIS has a war with Israelis which I don’t have anything to do about (but I sympathized with the victims).
I would have even understood if you showed me a written proof or anything that tells your company does not accepts people who were Muslims. But instead, you just told me I’m qualified but I’m a Muslim so “NO!” You even suggested that I change my religion just to be accepted. Where’s respect in that, Ma’am?
I understand that when you apply for a job, rejection is always inevitable, especially if you lack capabilities needed for that job or if the employer doesn’t find you worthy. But being rejected just because of your religion is something I really can’t accept.
Before all these happened, my cousins and aunts have always been telling me that it’s not easy to find job here in the Philippines especially when you’re a Muslim. That’s why they chose to take chances in Middle East. I didn’t listen to them because I thought they’re just making excuses for themselves; because they’re not confident. But as it turns out, they’re telling the truth. “How would you find a job in a company which is mostly dominated by Catholics?” That’s what they said. And as a matter of fact, I felt hopeless as well whenever I think about that fact. It’s not easy to work with people who see you as threat; to work with people who can’t understand your food preference and your praying habits.
Most of the companies here in the Philippines have Catholic employees. That’s inevitable because Philippines is I think 70% Catholic and the other 30% are non-Catholic. And Muslims are just 5% from the 30%. These are just estimations. But what I want to prove is that, it’s a tough fight to eat in a cafeteria where almost all the served foods have pork meat and you’re a Muslim. (Gets?)
It was a really painful experience. I thought there’s nothing more painful than being called a terrorist but there is, among others.
A dormitory banned me because I’m a Muslim
During my first quarter as an employee at ABS-CBN Corporation, I’m having a hard time adjusting to the distance of my house from our office especially because I’m in graveyard shift and traffic was hell when it’s rush hour in Quezon City. So I decided to rent a room in those dormitories near ABS-CBN. And luckily, I found three prospective bed spaces.
I asked my officemate to help me survey the rooms. I have three choices. First was a room in a two story house. The ambiance in that house was perfect. It has the same feel just like our own house. But the amenities cost a fortune (I’m low paid so I need to cut rate). It’s the second house that got me. But let’s go first with the third house and why I felt not living there. The third house was cheap which was perfect for me. But it helluva smells like cockroaches and urine. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a picky person when it comes to commodities and houses. Anywhere is fine as long as it’s clean. But that house reeks so much that I immediately say no when I was just about to enter the door. Now let’s go back to the second house. One word: PERFECT. The owners were related to the owner of the first house. They’re old folks who had super approachable personalities. We’ve even talked a lot about personal stuff like how they manage to give their children a proper education blah blah. They even spoke to me very nicely as if I’m part of the family. Then after a while they showed me the room. The room is so simple and clean. It has a double deck bed and personal cabinets for the tenants plus individual electric fans. It’s just the same as my room in our own house so I felt kind of attached. It’s pretty simple and very accommodating. Plus the cost was okay, not cheap but okay. So I said “yes” immediately. But then we got to the “religion” thing. I don’t how we got there but when they realized that I’m Muslim, their peaceful faces changed. They didn’t accept me for the following reasons, a) their tenants are all Catholics and they don’t want to cause misunderstandings, and b) though they deliberately said they have Muslim friends, they don’t want to have a Muslim tenant for whatever reason they can’t explain.
I can’t remember how I reacted to those reasons but what I remember is that I didn’t try to look for dorms anymore after that.
I’m losing the chance to make my dreams come true because I’m a Muslim
We all have our own set of dreams like dream house, dream life, dream job, etc. My dream life is to set foot in NYC and feel the freedom that it has to offer. I dream of studying its art and fashion. I dream of visiting Central Park and meeting smart and liberated people. I dream of watching Broadway plays and visiting Hollywood, etc. But with recent events, Donald Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton and his bigotry and misogyny towards Islam and women makes my dreams impossible. As he passed his new executive order banning immigrants to enter America, it became very clear that it’s the end of my dreams.
But that is not what concerns me the most. I can always go to America when Donald Trump is not the president anymore; as long as the next president is as good as Barack Obama. What concerns me was that it’s not just in my country anymore — a less developed country — where Islam discrimination is real. I can’t say that there hasn’t in other countries but it’s safe to assume that religious discrimination is real. And I wanted it to change because it hurts. It really hurts AF.
I don’t want people to joke about my beliefs anymore because it’s not really funny. I don’t want people to ask me about my religion anymore because they always ask the same questions yet they still don’t understand even if you’ve answered them the same way before. I don’t want to be called a threat because I didn’t actually hurt someone.
I want everyone to understand that I LOVE my religion and that I’m happy that my parents give it to me because it didn’t just give my life a purpose, it also gives me a lot of things to learn and appreciate about life. It gives me something or someplace where I can go back to whenever I’m lost. I will not change everything even if I will be given a change to. And I don’t want other people to take that away from me.
I want other people to respect me the same way I respect them. I want other people to respect my religion the same way I respect theirs. I don’t want other people to judge me. Only Allah can judge me.