Sunday, April 11, 2010

Superman is Moro (a Repost)

by Adel Tamano

SUPERMAN is a Moro. How do I know this? He has too many similarities with the contemporary Moro that simple logic reveals his true identity and ethnicity. Let’s turn to the facts which confirm that, indeed icon, this of goodness, truth and decency, the man of steel, is a Filipino Muslim.

Proof No. 1: He has a Moro name. This is the biggest give-away—Kal-El is the real name of Clark Kent, Superman’s mild-mannered alter ego. His given name is incredibly similar to common Filipino Muslim names like Khalil or even Ysmael and Abdul. In fact, for this reason, for him to get a job in the Philippines, he would have to use a pseudonym. According to the latest Social Weather Stations survey, Filipinos prefer hiring people with Christian-sounding names than those whose names appear to be of Islamic etymology.

Without a doubt, within the context of the global war on terrorism, wherein the usual suspects are those of the Islamic faith, it becomes easy to rationalize the preference. It needn’t be rooted any longer in stereotypes of Moros as violent, aggressive, and vicious, the classic juramentado, but can be much more easily and socially acceptable on the basis of general security concerns.

While liberalism encourages and advances the renunciation of discrimination and stereotyping, new anxieties about terrorism and safety provide seemingly liberal-minded people a basis for discriminating against Muslims without the concomitant guilt. In fact, honestly, whom would you prefer to hire as your clerk, manager, driver, etc., Kal-El, or Clark?

Proof No. 2: He has to keep his real identity a secret. Imagine how difficult it must be for a person with the power to fly, smash through walls, bounce bullets off his chest, and x-ray vision to keep these phenomenal abilities secret. Most people would want to shout it out to the world, publicize it, and, ultimately, capitalize on it. But Superman is different. And wise. He knows that in the increasingly globalized and homogenized world, being alien, different, and outside the norm is a surefire way to becoming ostracized and misunderstood. This is the reason why he dons his suit and tie. This is the supreme irony: it is his corporate attire and not the blue tights with the Superman logo and big red cape that is his real costume. The coat and tie conceals his authentic identity—as an alien and, ultimately, an outsider.

This is the same situation that the Moro faces; a case in point is the fact that many Filipino Muslims, when interacting with the Christian majority, have to adopt Christian names—Michael instead of Muhammad—as a way of sidestepping discrimination. This too is an aspect of an emerging Moro culture of keeping things hidden and undercover. The name itself is a costume, a camouflage, to conceal the reality of being Muslim and therefore different from the Catholic majority.

In fact, Moro women, particularly in Metro Manila, suffering daily the indignities of subtle discrimination, such as Taxi drivers refusing to accept as passengers veiled (hijab-wearing) Muslim women, are forced to forego using the hijab when taking public transportation, keeping their Muslimness incognito. For both Moro genders, the badges of being a Moro, which include the cultural traits of the Moro as Maranaw, Maguindanao, or Tausug, as well as the indivisible Islamic element that infuses the culture of these Muslim tribes, such as headscarves, Moro hats (kupya), beards and prayer beads, are eschewed for modern clothing for easier acceptance.

Even prayer, the most fundamental of human actions, with man communing with his creator, has to be done clandestinely. It is not difficult to recall the recent furor that was raised over the request of Moro merchants in Greenhills to build a small prayer room so that they could perform salah (prayer). Some prominent members of Philippine society vehemently objected, using the media as their forum, to the establishment of the prayer room, at times using the most racially and ethnically discriminatory of arguments.

Proof No. 3: He is forced not to wear his ethnic costume. This is really a corollary to No. 2, but the use of clothing to emphasize and express pride in one’s culture only makes sense in a world without prejudice, particularly when one belongs to a minority. In this world, wherein intolerance abounds, emphasizing cultural pride, particularly when it is Moro pride, produces real-world problems.

Interestingly, some Moro women, and their counterparts in the West, have taken to wearing the veil as an overt political statement, a reaffirmation of their Islamic faith in the face of discrimination. It is worn, literally, as a badge of fearlessness and courage knowing that an intolerant society will make them suffer, in ways subtle and otherwise, for their beliefs.

Adel A. Tamano is a lawyer who obtained his master of laws at the Harvard Law School as a graduate program scholar and Islamic legal studies scholar. He took his master of public administration at the University of the Philippines and his juris doctor and A. B. in Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University. He has authored two law books and published a handbook on Impeachment under the 1987 Constitution and Impeachment of Justices of the Supreme Court, a policy analysis.


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