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Islam and Muslims in Philippines: Rights Violations Defy Mindanao Peace

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  • Zafar Khan
    Rights Violations Defy Mindanao Peace By Rexcel John Sorza, IOL Correspondent Thu. Jan. 17, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2008
      Rights Violations Defy Mindanao Peace
      By Rexcel John Sorza, IOL Correspondent
      Thu. Jan. 17, 2008


      MANILA —Peace prospects in the Muslim-dominant
      southern island of Mindanao will remain elusive as
      long as Muslims continue to fall preys to gross rights
      violations and heavy-fisted policies, a human rights
      group has affirmed.

      "This report would contradict the statement of
      President Gloria Arroyo that she will bring peace to
      Mindanao," Sittie Rajabia Sundang, the
      secretary-general of Kawagib Moro Human Rights
      Organization, told IslamOnline.net.

      In its annual report, the group says government's
      pledges to bring peace to long-battered Mindanao, the
      birth place of Islam in the Philippines, are belied by
      gross rights violations.

      "There is still no atmosphere of peace in the Moro
      areas in Mindanao," it underlined.

      Kawagib said that from January to November 2007 alone,
      there were 21 cases of human rights violations
      committed by the military, police and intelligence
      agents against Muslims in the southern provinces.

      "These include violation of civil and political
      rights, violation of right to life and violation
      against property."

      More than 75,000 civilians have been displaced in the
      Muslim provinces of Basilan, Midsayap and Sulu.

      "Sulu was the hardest hit by a combination of ground
      troops commandos and indiscriminate aerial
      bombardment, with a total of 58,500 persons displaced
      due to three military operations," said the watchdog

      the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)has been
      struggling for an independent state in the
      mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao since 1978.

      At least 125,000 have been killed in the conflict.

      The government has announced an intention to draft
      constitutional amendments to allow the creation of a
      federal homeland for Muslims in the south.

      Manila and MILFhave already agreed to the scope and
      boundaries of "ancestral domain" or communal land that
      Muslims lost when the colonial government introduced a
      system of land titles.

      Dim Prospects

      The rights organization blamed Muslims' plight in 2007
      on "the combined anti-terror policies of the US
      government and the Philippine government."

      These policies brought about a "militarized community"
      where civilians were "becoming more vulnerable with
      the deployment of massive government forces and
      foreign troops in their communities."

      Worse still, the group predicts that 2008 could even
      bring more troubles for southern Muslims.

      "This year, there will be another round of Balikatan
      [Philippine-US military exercises] in different parts
      of Moro provinces," Sundang, the group chief, told

      "As what we have experienced in the past few years,
      the presence of the US worsens the human rights
      situation," she added.

      According to testimonies of many southerners, she
      explained, American troops participate in actual
      combat operations with the army rather than just
      observe or provide expert advice.

      "They are disregarding the will of the Moro people,"
      said Sundang.

      The US is the main defense ally of the Philippines.

      American troops engaging in military exercises and
      other activities in the country are immune by the
      Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides legal
      protection for any soldier charged with a crime in the
      Asian country.

      "We expect more human rights violations as we all know
      what kind of government we have," Sundang contends.

      To help them fight for their rights, Kawagib plans to
      give Muslims in the southern provinces training

      The group will take its awareness courses "to the
      grassroots and village levels, especially in those
      communities that are highly militarized like Sulu,
      Basilan and Central Mindanao."

      It also hopes the Moro people will be "empowered with
      basic human rights principles and equipped with the
      know-how to protect and assert their rights.

      "We are calling on our Muslim brothers and sisters to
      be more vigilant this year."

      Philippines: Islamic group condemns priest's murder


      Cotobato City, 16 Jan. (AKI) – The Philippines'
      largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation
      Front (MILF), has condemned the killing of a Catholic
      priest gunned down on Tuesday on an island in the Sulu
      archipelago in the southwest of the country.

      Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda was killed during an alleged
      kidnap attempt in Tabawan Island, in the province of
      Tawi-tawi – one of the main islands of the Sulu

      The archipelago is the stronghold of the homegrown
      Islamic terrorist organisation Abu Sayyaf, famous for
      its kidnap for ransom activities and beheadings.

      Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the MILF Da’wah –
      or Call to Islam - Committee, attacked the killing.

      “We condemn this killing in the highest possible
      terms and the killers deserve hell for their barbaric
      act,” he said on Wednesday.

      Quoted in the MILF official portal ‘Luwaran,’
      Muntassir added that the lives of non-combatants,
      including priests, were considered inviolable in Islam
      even in a combat situation.

      “The killing is an indication of the worsening
      situation in the Philippines that spared no one from
      the scourge of violence,” he said.

      Roda was a member of the Oblates of the Mary
      Immaculate (OMI) congregation and the director of the
      Notre Dame School of Tabawan as well as the head of
      the mission there. He had been living in Tabawan for
      the last ten years.

      According to Ramon Bernabe, the priest who heads the
      OMI provincial chapter, Roda was killed in an apparent
      kidnapping attempt while he was praying at the chapel.

      “He was praying in the chapel, as he used to do every
      night, when armed men barged in and tried to take him.
      He struggled and resisted being taken away, and
      explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right
      there and then,” Bernabe said in an email message to
      fellow Oblates and friends.

      “A witness said that he was beaten and then shot
      dead. The armed men also took some valuables from his
      office before fleeing, taking with them a male teacher
      of Notre Dame of Tabawan who happened to be there,” he

      Roda, a member of the OMI congregation, was ordained
      as a priest in 1980.

      Philippines 'bomb plotter' Islamic envoy: Egypt cleric
      Dec 23, 2007


      CAIRO (AFP) — An Egyptian man held in the Philippines
      for allegedly plotting a Christmas bomb attack is an
      envoy of Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning who
      was arrested by mistake, the insitution's grand imam
      said on Sunday.

      Al-Azhar's Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi told Egypt's
      official MENA news agency that he was personally
      following up the case of Sheikh Mohammed al-Sayyid
      Ahmed Mussa who was arrested by police in the
      Philippines on Tuesday.

      Tantawi aide Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam said he
      expected Sheikh Mussa to be released on bail "in the
      next few hours".

      "The envoys of Al-Azhar abroad are chosen according to
      strict criteria to encourage moderation in Islam and
      the renunciation of violence and terrorism," he added.

      The religious affairs ministry issued a statement
      saying that Sheikh Mussa was being well treated but
      that there were contacts at the highest level between
      the two governments to try to secure his release.

      "Sheikh Mussa is a man of faith who represents a
      prestigious religious institution," the ministry said.

      "There are 29 Al-Azhar envoys in the Philippines
      teaching Arabic language and Islamic religion in
      accordance with an agreement between Cairo and
      Manila," he added.

      Mussa, identified by Philippine police as Mohamad
      Sayed, was arrested during a raid on a flat in the
      Majad Islamic School in the southern city of Cotabato.

      An explosive device fashioned from a 60-millimetre
      mortar round and ball bearings attached to a timing
      device were recovered from his room.

      Philippine police said the Egyptian was captured after
      surveillance and that intelligence reports suggested
      he planned to detonate the bomb at an undisclosed
      location in the city on Christmas Day.

      Among the items they said were recovered from his room
      was a booklet on the organisation of the Moro Islamic
      Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has been
      fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern

      Tantawi said he hoped Mussa would be released "within
      the coming couple of days" and that the arrest was a
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