Filipino Muslims stage a creative "social experiment" in Manila aimed at fighting what they perceive as growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. (Photo courtesy of Akbayan)
A group of young Muslims are urging Filipino youth to use social media to help eradicate bias against Muslims.
"If you have 3,000 or 4,000 friends in social media, let's contradict those negative messages or barriers [between religion and culture]," said Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman of the youth group Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement.
Usman, who is also a member of the National Peace Council, said young people can help break barriers set up by differences in religion and help correct individual prejudices.
The National Peace Council is a group of community leaders assembled by President Benigno Aquino last year to lead discussions on the establishment of new Muslim region in Mindanao.
Usman's group issued a statement on Jan. 20 calling for the passage of a proposed law that will create the Muslim region, which is part of a 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Usman expressed hope that through education, Filipinos will be able to "create a space to understand each other."
"The need for peace and social justice in Mindanao should be cleared or else the next generation will inherit the conflict," said Usman, adding that biases against Muslims in Mindanao are a cause of the armed rebellion in the region.
Jabar Sabdullah, vice president of the Federation of Muslim Students Association, said the creation of an autonomous Muslim region can end the inequality in Mindanao.
"It is high time to realize the grievances of the Bangsamoro and to translate our visions of peace into reality in the form of the [creation of a Muslim region]," said Sabdullah.
Last year, young Muslims launched the Handshake Project in an attempt to eliminate negative feelings toward Muslims following the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of Moro rebels.
The group urged people in the capital Manila to shake hands with Muslims or write messages of support on "peace cards."
The Handshake Project was inspired by a Canadian social experiment called the Blind Trust Project that also aimed at countering Islamophobia.