HomeEquality & JusticePhilippine police memo seeking list of Muslim students slammed

Philippine police memo seeking list of Muslim students slammed

Activists and religious leaders in the Philippines expressed outrage over a memorandum issued by the Manila police department directing all its units to get the names of Muslim students in the capital.

Several groups condemned what they described as “profiling of Muslim students” by the police in line with its efforts “to counter violent extremism.”

Amir Mawallil, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in the southern Philippines, called it “a blatant [act of] discrimination” against the country’s Muslim minority.

“This is why it is hard to be a Muslim in this country,” he said, adding that discrimination against Muslims “is rampant, constant, and endless.”

“It’s always like this. The Muslim experience is framed in a cruel, endless cycle,” he added.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers publicized the memorandum, which ordered all police commanders to “submit an updated list of Muslim students.”

Joselyn Martinez, head of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, described the police action as “deplorable.”

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She said the memorandum essentially stops short of saying “that Muslims are more likely to become extremists or terrorists.”

The memorandum said the data will be used by the Salaam Police Center, a Muslim police unit, “as reference in the series of activities (that are) part of peace-building and (to) counter violent extremism.”

The lists, which were required from school officials in the capital, were supposed to be submitted through email and/or a “group chat.”

The non-government Salinlahi alliance for Children’s Concerns expressed “alarm” over what it called “yet another irrational and unwarranted” police action.

“It poses nothing but serious risks to Muslim students, including children who are studying at secondary schools,” the group said, adding that it “promotes discrimination and Islamophobia.”

Muslim children wait for a ride outside a mosque in the Philippine capital of Manila. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

The group said the profiling will result in possible police surveillance that will only increase cases of harassment, intimidation, and threats.

“Such a move may create fear among Muslim youth of being falsely accused of joining in terroristic activities or sympathizing with violent extremists,” read Salinlahi’s statement.

In Mindanao, Salaam police centers serve as the coordinating body between police and military units conducting operations against Muslims suspects.

Abdul Hamidullah Atar, Sultan of Marawi in the southern Philippines, called on the police and military to respect the rights of citizens regardless of faith, creed, or political affiliation.

He warned that the profiling of young Muslims in Manila will only result in hatred against the government.

“Often, violence happens when structural violence exists, including discrimination,” said the Muslim leader.

It is the second time this week that the police have been accused of profiling minority groups. 

On Feb. 17, two policemen were relieved from their posts following random profiling of transgender women, under the auspices of protecting the sexual minority from exploitation.

In 2018, the police also sought to build databases of members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers when it asked schools to submit the names of teachers affiliated with the organization.

Teachers protested the memoranda, and successfully forced the Department of Education and the police to revoke the orders. Several police intelligence officials were relieved from their duty.

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