The Muslims' Appeal for Secession in Mindanao Essay

KPDCSubmitted on October 10, 2008 2008-0xxxx BA Political Science Thesis: Ancestral domain, cultural differences, and hostilities in Mindanao are the reasons behind the Muslims’ appeal for secession. I. Introduction II. Muslims have occupied Mindanao even before the colonization of the country. a. A ‘baranganic’ society and government were established before the spread of Islam in the country. b. Sultanates were formed during the spread of Islam in the country. c. Foreign colonization was unfalteringly resisted by the Muslims of Mindanao. III.

Cultural differences have resulted in a scarce understanding of the Muslims by the rest of the population. a. Muslims were influenced by certain Islamic beliefs and the structure of the Moro society. b. Muslims were deprived of privileges, discriminated against, and considered a minority group. IV. The government and the Muslims have caused hostilities against each other for years. a. The aggression between the government and the Muslims was escalated during the Commonwealth period and the Marcos regime. b. Mindanao was disputed over from the Ramos regime to the Arroyo regime. . The Muslims’ actions against the government were supported by Islamic countries. V. Conclusion Reasons behind the Muslims’ Appeal for Secession Before the rise of imperialism, various ethnicities have already been formed in different parts of the world. For instance, prior to the development of the United States, the Native Americans had flourished by having religion, government, and culture. After the country’s progress, Native Americans became a minority, despite their earlier occupation of the United States. The Moros have been undergoing the same experience.

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But unlike the Native Americans, the Moros have been demanding secession from the Republic. Recently, the country has been faced with the controversial issue of the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. The Moros have made another attempt at self-governance with this MOA-AD, hence, the proposal of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. But the government has delayed with the signing and then refused to authorize the agreement. Consequently, this has caused the escalation of the MILF attacks in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.

MILF chiefs claim that their aggression would stop only if the government agrees to sign the said agreement. This has not been the first attempt of the Muslims to secede from the government. This includes the establishment of the different Islamic fronts and the ARMM. This brings about the question, “Why do the Muslims demand separation from the country? ” This study seeks to broaden the reader’s knowledge about the social implication of Muslim secession by focusing on its reasons.

It also attempts to re-examine the issue by recalling events from the past and incorporating them with current ones, by providing an honest and objective perspective. One of the reasons behind the Muslims’ appeal for secession is Muslim occupation of Mindanao prior to foreign rule. Before the spread of Islam in the country, the pre-Islamic Philippine society was already formed by a government, culture, religion, and an economy, independent of Western influence (Agoncillo, 1990; Constantino, 1975; Glang, 1969).

The barangay is the period’s social unit, consisting of nearly 100 houses with a population that could be as numerous as 500 people (Constantino, 1975). In fact, Agoncillo (1990) reveals that social classification was already established. The nobility was made up of chieftains, the freemen of unbound men, and dependents of slaves. He further discusses that laws, which deal with crimes, inheritance, property rights, and other issues were either customary or written.

Religion, he also says, was polytheistic. In spite of the simplicity of the political and social organization, trade was established with the Chinese, Arabs, and the Indians (Constantino, 1975). As a result of this trade, Islam penetrated the country due to Arab merchants and Muslim missionaries. The Sulu Sultanate was established with its first Sultan, Sayed Abu Bakar or Abu Bakr, who had claimed ancestry with the prophet Mohammed (Agoncillo, 1990; Che Man, 1990; Glang, 1969).

Abu Bakr formed laws based on the Koran and fashioned the political structure to follow Arabia’s (Azurin, 1996). Che Man (1990) states that preachers converted people surrounding Sulu, reaching Basilan, Palawan, Zamboanga, and even Borneo. Another person significant to the spread of Islam in the country was Sherif Muhammad Kabungsuan, an Arab-Malay from Malaysia (Glang, 1969). According to Gowing (as cited in Che Man, 1990), the social classification resembled the pre-Islamic division.

The political structure of the Moro society was more complex than the early Filipinos’ barangay, as it interlaced with religion, with the Sultan or Raja as the head of the state, a panglima in each district, and other officers aiding the panglima in governmental tasks (Mednick as cited in Che Man, 1990). Al-Attas, Bayat, and Majul (as cited in Che Man, 1990) say that because of Mindanao’s conversion to Islam, religion became significant in the resistance against colonization, as it forms a union that differentiates the Muslims from the non-Muslims.

For instance, the attempt by the Spaniards to conquer Mindanao in 1521 failed, because it posed as a threat to Islam (Che Man, 1990; Glang, 1969). Azurin (1996), Che Man (1990) and Glang (1969) claim that Moro resistance did not falter, even in the face of American imperialism, as the Muslims considered opposition to foreign power as a sabillilah, or a struggle in the name of Allah, as said by Tan (cited in Che Man, 1990). Another reason for the Muslims’ appeal for secession is the cultural differences resulting to a lack of understanding of the Muslims.

Glang (1969) reveals that Muslims regard their datus highly, even consulting them about matters concerning the community, including governmental activities, elections, and even affairs like marriage and family relations. Furthermore, he says that Muslims consider the government as an affair only for their leaders. Glang (1969) explains that political beliefs are connected with religion because, as Che Man (1990) says, Islam is also a socio-political association.

Hence, the quote “it is the duty of every Muslim to wage Jihad, to change Darul Aman (mixed and tense community) to Darul Islam (Islamic territory) and prevent it from becoming Darul Harb (hostile area)” (Azurin, 1996, p. 42) confirms the unwavering significance of religion and the constant threat the Muslims feel to their religion (Che Man, 1990; Glang, 1969). Because of differences in religion and culture, Muslims have been deprived of privileges, discriminated against, and considered a minority group.

Minorities are defined as groups “that are characterized as having lower social status, possessing less power and prestige, and exercising fewer rights than the dominant groups of the society” (Encyclopedia, 1993). It has been previously mentioned that Muslims have occupied Mindanao before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. But during the Spanish colonization, the Spaniards cultivated religious animosity between the Muslims and the Indios, or the Christian Filipinos, causing Muslims to regard Christians as enemies and vice versa (Che Man, 1990; Glang, 1969).

Che Man (1990) claims that President Quezon removed the sultans’ and the datus’ authority and that public office in Muslim provinces were reserved for Christians. It has also been mentioned that large numbers of people from Luzon and Visayas came to live in Mindanao, reducing the Muslims’ numbers (Che Man, 1990; Encyclopedia, 1993). Moreover, Azurin (1996) reveals the claim and encroachment of Mindanao by the government and corporations like Goodyear, Firestone, Goodrich, Del Monte, and Dole Philippines. The last reason for the Muslims’ appeal for secession is the hostilities they and the government have caused each other.

During the Commonwealth period, Mindanao was occupied by landless Christian settlers and was tried to to be assimilated to the Philippine Republic (Azurin, 1996; Che Man, 1990, Encyclopedia, 1990). Che Man (1990) shows that this was met by an anti-government activity by the Muslims. In the Marcos regime, the Jabidah Massacre, the murder of 28 Moros by the Philippine Army in Corregidor in March 1968, was one of the reasons for the establishment of organized fronts such as the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) (Azurin, 1996; Che Man, 1990).

Just after the imposition of martial law in September 1972, the Moros, wanting to defend Islam, declared war with the Marcos regime (Che Man, 1990). Through the MILF, the Moros attempted to secede from the country in 1980, citing the Jabidah Massacre, economic exploitation, and US imperialism as causes (Azurin, 1996; Che Man, 1990; Mastura, 1986). Throughout the Ramos to the Arroyo regimes, there has also been much animosity between Muslims and the government.

One example would be the aggression by the Moro Islamic Liberation front and the soldiers in North Cotabato and the violence caused by Christian vigilante movements during the Ramos regime. This aggression was again triggered by an issue of land concerning a Muslim tribal leader and a government irrigation project (Azurin, 1996). Sindayen (as cited in Azurin, 1996) further adds that the number of casualties during the Marcos regime was 120,000 people, including soldiers, insurgents and civilians.

Recently, because of the government’s refusal to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the MILF has launched attacks in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato (Palace to review ancestral domain accord with the MILF, 2008; Government not signing MOA-AD even if SC rules it is constitutional, 2008). The government was also criticized due to its inability to distribute copies of the MOA-AD to the public (MILF chief: MOA-AD signing will end hostilities, 2008).

Santos (2008) reveals that past negotiations with the MILF have proved useless, because what the Moros really want is self-governance. Despite the Muslims’ actions against the government, Islamic countries were found to have consistently supported them. Azurin (1996) and Che Man (1990) explain that Muslims offer help to other Islamic countries because it is a religious obligation. Libya, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia, have been the Moros’ incessant supporters (Che Man, 1990).

For instance, when the MNLF was formed in Malaysia in 1968 where secret training camps were established, and weaponry, food, and logistics were provided by other countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia (Azurin, 1996; Castro, 1986; Che Man, 1990). Che Man (1990) and Mastura (1986) explain that Malaysia has been very supportive of the Moros, promoting the Moro case of secession and providing a location for the Islamic Conference of 1974. Castro (1986) and Che Man (1990) add that Libya also assisted the Moros, having provided them with US$1 million for training and having the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 in Tripoli, Libya.

Saudi Arabia’s role has also been very significant, providing funds to Moro fronts and to development projects, and briefly ceased oil supply to the Philippines after Marcos’s failure to follow the conditions of the Tripoli agreement (Che Man, 1990; Mastura, 1986). This study has examined the reasons for the Muslims’ appeal for secession from the country, namely: Muslim occupation in the pre-colonial period, a scarce understanding of the Muslims by the rest of the population, and the hostilities the government and the Muslims have caused each other.

The researcher has found that the country’s colonization by the Spaniards have fostered prejudice between Filipino Christians and Muslims. The researcher has also revealed that the Muslims cannot be fully receptive to the jurisdiction by the government because of religious beliefs in authority. Islam is not only a religion but a ‘socio-political order’. The researcher suggests that more reasons be made known for this appeal for secession, especially in an economic perspective to forecast the different implications the government’s actions would result in. It is also recommended that Islam should also be cited as a reason for secession.

Since Islam is the driving force behind every Muslim as well as a socio-political order, it provides a number of causes behind their resistance and their attempts at self-governance. Readers are encouraged to offer any help they could give by giving to relief drives, supporting movements for peace, and by being more knowledgeable about the issues in Mindanao. Reference List: Agoncillo, T. A. (1990). History of the Filipino people (8th ed. ). Quezon City: Garotech Publishing. Azurin, A. M. (1996). Beyond the cult of dissidence: In the southern Philippines and wartorn zones in the global village.

Quezon City: UP Center for Integrative and Developmental Studies and University of the Philippines Press Castro, P. (1986). Current status of the Tripoli agreement. Paper presented at theconference on The Tripoli Agreement: Problems and Prospects, Quezon City, Philippines. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from Papers of the Conference on the Tripoli Agreement: Problems and Prospects. Che Man, W. K. (1990). Muslim separatism: The Moros of southern Philippines and theMalays of southern Thailand. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. Constantino, R. (1975).

The Philippines: A past revisited. Manila. Glang, A. C. (1969). Muslim secession or integration. Quezon City: R. P. GarciaPublishing Co. Government not signing MOA-AD even if SC rules it is constitutional. (2008). Retrieved August 29, 2008, from http://www. gov. ph/news Mastura, M. (1986). The crisis in the MNLF leadership and the dilemma of Muslim autonomy movement. Paper presented at the conference on The Tripoli Agreement: Problems and Prospects, Quezon City, Philippines. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from Papers of the Conference on the Tripoli Agreement: Problems and Prospects.

MILF chief: MOA-AD signing will end hostilities. (2008). Retrieved August 29, 2008, from http://www. abs-cbnnews. com Mindanao. (1993). In Encyclopedia Americana (Vol. 19, pp. 151-152). Danbury: Grolier Incorporated Minorities. (1993). In Encyclopedia Americana (Vol. 19, pp. 207-210). Danbury: Grolier Incorporated Palace to review ancestral domain accord with MILF. (2008). Retrieved August 29, 2008, from http://www. abs-cbnnews. com Santos, S. (2008, August 14). BJE and independent statehood. The Inquirer. Retrieved August 29, 2008, from http://www. inquirer. net


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