Agreement paves the way for Islamic sub-state in the Philippines

November 15, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Concerns have been raised about the creation of an Islamic sub-state in the southern Philippines following an agreement between the government and a Muslim separatist group that has been fighting a bloody war for independence.

The MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state

The MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state

Philippines, November 13, 2012: The government of the Philippines signed a “framework agreement” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last month; it will create an area called “Bangsamoro” to replace what is currently known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The preliminary agreement creates a Transition Commission that will work towards a comprehensive peace deal to end the decades-long Muslim insurgency. Hard-line Islamists have been fighting for the territory to become an independent Islamic state; Christians have frequently been targeted in their violent campaign.

Sharia law will be enforced in Bangsamoro, raising concerns about the creation of an Islamic sub-state. Marvic Leonen, head of the government negotiating panel, tried to allay fears by saying that any law adopted in the region would be subject to the country’s constitution, and that any attempt to impose controversial practices, such as stoning to death for adultery, could be challenged in the Supreme Court.

The agreement states that sharia will not be applied to Christians and other non-Muslims in Bangsamoro, but it remains to be seen how widely and strictly it will be enacted.

Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty expert, raised concerns about Muslims who want to convert to another religion:

Would Bangsamoro Muslims be free to leave Islam – a right guaranteed them in the Philippine Constitution – or would leaving Islam fall under the jurisdiction of the sharia court?

Under sharia law, the death penalty is applied to any adult, male Muslim who leaves Islam.

Mindanao Christians objected to a previous agreement in 2008 that was very similar to the latest one. Fearing that they would be living in an Islamic state, they petitioned the Supreme Court, which ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional. The MILF responded with violence, killing around 400 Christians and displacing some 750,000.

The Philippines government has been unable to quash the Islamist uprising in Mindanao. The battle was previously with a group called the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). A peace deal was signed with them in 1996, but this did not end the conflict. The MILF, comprising hard-line Islamists who rejected peace, formed out of the MNLF and continued to fight.

As the government now signs an agreement with the MILF, other threats are rising. MNLF leaders say that the document violates their 1996 deal and has threatened unrest if the plans proceed. And another group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has split from the MILF to continue the jihad.

A pattern appears to be emerging: the government gives ground to the Islamist insurgents in an effort to establish peace, only for a more extreme group to form and increase its demands.

– barnabas team

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments are closed.