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Converts/Reverts: Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam

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  • Zafar Khan
    Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam By Rexcel Sorza November 7, 2005 IOL Philippines Correspondent
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12, 2005
      Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam
      By Rexcel Sorza
      November 7, 2005
      IOL Philippines Correspondent


      When Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari wanted Mindanao
      to secede and become an Islamic state, a Mindanao-born
      theologian and sociologist was among the first to rise
      and argue that the southern Philippine island is never
      home to Muslims alone.

      Catholic priest Estanislao Soria campaigned against
      the Moros’ takeover of the whole of Mindanao. “I
      vehemently disagreed with Mr. Misuari. I campaigned
      against the Moro movement,” said Soria, who used to be
      popularly known as “Father Stan.”

      Soria did not want to argue without basis as he is an
      academic and theologian schooled in the Jesuit-run
      learning institutions.

      He embarked on a historical and sociological research
      to back his arguments. In the back of mind, though,
      was the thought of the need to convert Muslims to
      Christianity. This also brought him to read Islamic
      writings, and, quite surprisingly, lead him to revert
      to Islam.

      “As a linguist well-versed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew,
      I thought I can learn Arabic that easily. I also
      wanted to translate Arabic writings into English as
      well as translate Western ideologies like
      existentialism into Arabic but I realized it was
      difficult,” he told IslamOnline.net.

      Soria believed that making Western writings available
      in Arabic would lead Muslims in Mindanao to appreciate
      Christianity more than Islam. “I wanted to open their
      minds to Christianity because I had heard a lot of
      negative things about the Muslims. I told myself they
      have to be educated.”

      But in getting deep into his readings, Soria realized
      that persons considered as “Church fathers” such as
      Saint Thomas Aquinas, got their knowledge from Islamic
      readings and teachings; that many of the so-called
      Western ideologies and theologies have long been
      discussed in Islam.

      “[My readings] enlightened me that Western
      civilization’s thoughts sprung from Islamic teachings.
      After reading more works of Islamic theologians, I
      strongly changed my views on Islam,” he told

      Soria added, “I even realized that the Gospel of
      Barnabas is even more credible than the gospels of the
      four evangelists [included in the Christian Bible].”
      The Gospel of Barnabas is a work purporting to be a
      depiction of the life of Jesus by his disciple
      Barnabas. It is also considered to be pro-Islamic.

      He, too, found out through his sociological research
      that most of the negative things said of the Filipino
      Muslims were untrue. “They were not what they were
      stereotyped to be.”

      In 2001, Soria, who had served as parish priest in
      various cities and towns in Metro Manila after taking
      his college and theology studies at Xavier University
      and Loyola School of Theology, both of the Jesuit-run
      Ateneo de Manila University, reverted to Islam.

      He has since been known as Muhammad Soria, but many,
      including his Muslim friends, still call him “Father

      The 64-year-old Soria said his decision was met with
      condemnation and disgust by most of his relatives and
      former parishioners, an experience similar to what
      many of the Muslim reverts, locally known as Balik
      Islam, go through. This, however, did not deter him
      from leaving the priesthood after 14 years and
      embracing Islam.

      Soria is getting used to Islam, which to him is not
      only a religion but a way of life.

      He has gone on Hajj in Makkah five times already,
      being a member of the Islamic Da`wah Movement of the
      Philippines. He also married a 24-year-old woman last
      year after living a celibate life as a priest.

      Soria said that if there is one thing that Muslims
      should learn from Christians, it is being organized.
      To him, having a structure would greatly help in
      spreading Islam as structure helped the Christians.

      For example, he said, Muslims should put up
      universities all over the globe, as Catholic
      missionaries did with their universities. Also, “why
      can’t Islamic states produce preachers and do what the
      Christian missionaries did?” he asked.

      He further said there is a need to “intellectualize
      Islam through rationality” because by doing so the
      teachings embodied in the Qur’an would be better
      appreciated by people totally new to it.

      He is also ecstatic about the annual fast this
      Ramadan. He said he is again reminded of the sunrise
      to sundown fast’s “spiritual value” in contrast to the
      Christian’s dieting “which is too material or human.”

      Soria said, “In Islam, we are taught that if you
      discipline your body the Creator would grant your
      wish.” Harmony between Filipino Muslims and Filipino
      Christians in this largely Christian nation, amid the
      stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, is among the
      wishes he prays to be granted.

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