Monday, October 11, 2004


In his column today at, Manuel L. Quezon III talks about the brewing controversy in Greenhills over the decision of the management of the shopping center to build a mosque inside the center's premises.

Among the most vocal opponents of this proposal is Max Soliven, publisher of the Philippine Star and Greenhills resident. In a series of columns, Soliven described the influx of Muslim traders into the area as a threat to their security, going so far as to suggest that the plan to build a mosque was a front to build a terrorist headquarters right there in the Greenhills area.

Fortunately, Quezon offers a more sober argument to Soliven's position:

I have seen the Muslims in Greenhills gathered together in hallways and other makeshift locations, kneeling on the floor and praying, as non-Muslim shoppers, with curiosity and fear on their faces, stroll by and stare at them. Surely, considering the requirements of Islam, and the sizeable number of Muslims who show up for work in Greenhills, they are entitled to pray in a place that affords them some dignity, quiet and peace.


But then you have the opposition of Greenhills residents. It is an opposition based on experience, but also, on an unhealthy dose of bigotry. In large part, the solutions being offered are unsatisfactory because of ignorance of the requirements of Islam. Given the strict and periodic prayer times required, could there be any other solution than building a place for Muslims to pray in?

It is an unfortunate fact that bigotry against Muslim Filipinos is still fairly widespread in our country. What is unacceptable, however, is that the publisher of one of the most widely-circulated broadsheets in this country also harbors this same kind of bigotry, when in fact his position in society requires an open mind to such issues as to provide a journalistic beacon for his readership.

Then again, that may be too much to ask for considering who is involved. The last time Soliven was embroiled in a controversy, he was accused (along with his partner Manuel 'Babe' Romualdez) of libel by Presidential Adviser Roberto Romulo. The duo allegedly engaged in a villification campaign in the Philippine Star after Romualdez' PR firm contract with Malacañang was not renewed after Romulo's recommendations.


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