ZAMBOANGA CITY : Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan has branded as preposterous a statement of Philippine military chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay that madrasas or Islamic schools in the province are suspected of radicalizing students.

310820 hero 5 dilan 1 - Sulu gov to Gapay: Retract falsehood
FOR HEROES Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay salutes during the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Taguig City on Aug. 31, 2020 as the country marked National Heroes’ Day. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Gapay’s statement also drew criticism from Muslims.

“I join the many Muslim voices to include that of Rep. Mujiv Hataman on the madrasa issue. I do agree that to have [that statement coming] from no less than the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), saying that Islamic schools in the country can be possible hotbeds of terrorism or to link madrasas to terrorism, is both absurd and uncalled for,” Tan said.

He added, “Indeed such [a] statement 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 best for everyone to be prudent and avoid tearing the threads of wounds that have 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 their 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 added.

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

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, a former Muslim autonomous region 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,” said Hataman, who himself studied in a madrasa.

He added that these institutions only advocate peace and learning and are not breeding grounds for violent extremists and terrorists.

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