Note from Farish Noor - Article on Anti-Muslim prejudice in

            the Philippines

            

           

                  

            

 

            The 11 September tragedy was a catastrophe for the world, I feel.

            What is worse, the event is now being exploited by anti-Muslim

            groups and governments the world over as part of their renewed

            campaign against Muslim minority groups fighting for political

            recognition and political rights.

 

            The anti-Muslim prejudice in the Philippines has reached an epidemic

            level, affecting even professionals and politicians. Here is an

            article I'd like you to read and use if possible.

 

            Farish

            ------------

 

            Demonising Islam in the Philippines:

            The Longest Crusade Lingers On

 

            By Farish A. Noor

 

 

            Preamble:

 

            The 11 September tragedy has had long-term and far-flung

            consequences. For many countries in the world with sizeable Muslim

            minorities, it has opened up old wounds after decades of internal

            civil conflict, and served as a justification for clamping down on

            local Muslim resistance movements. The highly emotional tone of

            these conflicts have not, however, helped to address the real

            underlying issues that are at the root of the problem itself. What

            is worse, the fear of Islamic militancy has been exploited by some

            as a convenient way to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, disguised as

            part of the now-global 'War on Terror'.

 

            -------

 

            Text:

 

            "Oh how foolish is humanity, not to recognise evil in its face!

            History is strewn with a whole ocean of bodies cut down by the

            fundamentalist sword. From the inception of Islam 1400 years ago

            until the present, Muslim fundamentalists have wielded their

            theology of coercion and violence against other religions. This is

            not the first time that anyone has attributed the evil that

            fundamentalists do to the Qur'an, Islam's sacred scripture."

 

            Such were the words of Dr. Jose Ducadao of the Vincente Sotto

            Memorial Medical Centre in Cebu city, Philippines. The article he

            wrote was entitled 'A Theology of Evil and the Koran' and it

            appeared in the Philippine Star newspaper (19 September 2001). The

            editors of the paper noted that they 'considered it fit to print' on

            the grounds that it was based on 'relevant rational comments'.

 

            That the 11 September tragedy could be turned around to suit the

            agenda of Islamophobic and bigoted Christian fundamentalists in the

            Philippines is hardly a surprise. After all, Islamophobia has been

            part and parcel of Filipino society for decades if not centuries,

            and millions of ordinary Filipinos still cannot come to terms that

            they were once a Muslim nation that were forcibly converted to

            Christianity at the point of a sword. (Contrary to the rantings of

            Dr. Dacudao, there is ample historical evidence -even in the

            Philippines- to show that Islam's spread to the Southeast Asian

            archipelago was a peaceful one. The same, sadly, cannot be said of

            Christianity's arrival which came thanks to Portuguese and Spanish

            conquistadores who hacked their way across Southeast Asia as part of

            a 'holy war' against the infidel Moors. Ironically, till today the

            Muslims in the Philippines are still referred to as 'Moros', a term

            which dates back to the Crusades of the past.)

 

            Anti-Muslim prejudice therefore runs deep in Filipino history. What

            is more, this hatred is compounded by a sense of guilt and

            complicity by Filipino Christians themselves who know that their own

            history is a less than perfect one. The journals of Antonio

            Pigafetta, who accompanied the European explorer Magellan on his

            trip to the Philippines, is full of passages which describe in

            excruciating detail the massacre of entire Muslim societies who did

            not convert to the new religion brought by the explorer-conquerors.

            (Manila itself was the seat of a Muslim Sultanate, ruled by Sultan

            Sulaiman.)

 

            What is more Pigafetta actually describes these massacres in glowing

            terms, very much like that other explorer-conqueror Alfonso

            d'Alburqueque the younger (son of the Portuguese admiral Alfonso

            d'Alburqueque who conquered Malacca in 1511 and who then set out to

            kill every single Muslim man, woman and child in the defeated city.)

            Filipinos today naturally find it difficult to reconcile their own

            Muslim past and blood-soaked history with the image of Christianity

            as a religion of peace and love that they have been taught at

            school.

 

            The historical discrepancies do not stop there. Filipinos still

            cannot come to terms with the fact that the real Filipino resistance

            to colonial rule did not begin with a handful of creolised Mestizo

            elites in the north, but rather the Muslim rebellions that began in

            the South during the Spanish era. The fact remains that the Muslims

            of Southern Philippines were fighting against Spanish colonial rule

            for four centuries, long before the political awakening among the

            converted Filipinos in Luzon even began.

 

            Today, the facts of history have been erased. So has any rational

            analysis into the roots of Muslim anger in the South. The 11

            September tragedy has had long-term and far-flung consequences

            affecting the countries of the West as well as the East. For many

            countries in the world with sizeable Muslim minorities, it has

            opened up old wounds after decades of internal civil conflict, and

            served as a justification for clamping down on local Muslim

            resistance movements. The highly emotional tone of these conflicts

            have not, however, helped to address the real underlying issues that

            are at the root of the problem itself. What is worse, the fear of

            Islamic militancy has been exploited by some as a convenient way to

            whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, disguised as part of the now-global

            'War on Terror'.

 

            It did not take long for those with anti-Muslim prejudice and fears

            to crawl out of the woodwork: People like Dr. Dacudao continue to

            heap their prejudice and fears on the Southern Muslims; deriding

            their beliefs, values, culture and religion and demonising them as

            intolerant fanatics and extremists.

 

            But few Filipino leaders have addressed the real causes of rebellion

            among the Muslims of the South themselves. The chronic

            under-development of the region, the centralisation of power into

            the hands of an elite oligarchy based in Manila, the abuse of power

            by the armed forces and security services, the constant attempt to

            marginalise the culture, languages and religion of the Southerners-

            have all contributed to the souring of relations between Mindanao

            and the capital, Manila.

 

            During the Marcos era, the armed forces were used to suppress the

            rebellions in the South with such ferocity that the "ocean of

            bodies" that Dr. Dacudao speaks of happened to be Muslim bodies,

            littered in burnt-out villages or mass graves in the jungle. Rather

            than talk about the 'extremism' of the Muslims he could have done

            better by getting over his own myopia by looking at the extremism of

            successive governments- from Marcos to Aquino to Ramos, Erap and

            Aroyyo- who have used the army to quell a popular rebellion that

            was, after all, based on the demand for universal justice,

            democracy, development and equal representation. Instead, every

            single one of the Presidents of the Philippines has used the Moro

            issue as a punching bag to show just how tough and committed they

            were, and far they would go to win votes.

 

            The 11 September event has therefore been exploited to the hilt by

            anti-Muslim bigots and extremists in the North to curry favour with

            the West (most notably their ex-colonial master, the United States

            of America) and to justify further repression against the

            separatists in the South. Already President Aroyyo has made numerous

            trips to the capitals of the United States, Singapore, Indonesia and

            Malaysia to win support for her 'war against terror' in her own

            backyard. The likelihood is that the powers-that-be in Washington

            will not be all that concerned about how much terror she herself

            will unleash to solve her domestic problems.

 

            But violence begets violence, and the likelihood is that Aroyyo's

            campaign against the Moro separatists will fail as all the previous

            campaigns before hers. Manila still cannot get its act together and

            cannot understand that what the people of Mindanao really want is

            clean government, equitable growth, freedom of speech and a right to

            express their religious and cultural identity- just like all the

            other communities in the country. Bombing them will not weaken their

            resolve, but only make it stronger.

 

            And as for the so-called threat of 'religious extremism' among

            Filipino Muslims, President Aroyyo should look closer to home and

            tackle the growing extremism among the Christian fundamentalists in

            her own backyard. These are the fanatics who have made

            Christian-Muslim dialogue and co-existence next to impossible.

            Anyone who doubts this should read and reflect upon the closing

            words of Dr. Jose Dacudao, which could have easily been the words of

            any bloodthirsty crusader from the past:

 

            "Even the most peaceful Muslim communities can produce

            fundamentalist warriors. That is why the Qur'an is a curse on

            humanity. It cannot be erased anymore. The threat that its evil

            verses pose on us is permanent."

 

            Even the most fanatical crusaders in the past could accept that

            Islam and Christianity had common roots and should learn to co-exist

            with one another. Such understanding seems totally lost among the

            zealots of the Philippines these days.

 

            End.