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tnalak-getty2Tnalak-gettyKORONADAL, PHILIPPINES – JULY 18: Filipino natives wait for their turn to perform at the 2009 T�nalak Festival, showcasing South Cotabato Province tribal cultures on July 18, 2009 in the southern city of Koronadal, Philippines. T�nalak is an indigenous term for colorful cloth woven by women of the T�boli tribe that has brought recognition to the province in the national and international scene. US-trained Filipino security forces were placed on heightened alert over fears the country’s homegrown Islamists could try to emulate the Jakarta hotel bombings. Early this month, twelve people died and more than 100 others were wounded in separate attacks carried out by local militants in the region. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Nash Maulana, Germelina Lacorte
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 06:11pm (Mla time) 10/12/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Few Muslims fired firecrackers and weapons in the air as they marked the end of the month-long fasting at dawn Friday.

At the city hall and Cotabato City Central Pilot Elementary School grounds, thousands of Muslims convened around 6 a.m. for their congregational prayer on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Mayor Muslimin Sema told reporters that less gunfire was heard throughout the city at dawn as majority heeded an appeal not to fire guns. Muslims traditionally welcome the end of the fasting with guns and firecrackers.

“The Eid’l Fitr is not all about firing of weapons and firecrackers. The most important are prayers, unity, and sharing. Islam does not teach about such thing during Ramadan and Eid’l Fitr,” said Sema, also secretary general of the Moro National Liberation Front, once the country’s largest Muslim rebel group that signed a peace pact with government in 1996.

The road to Eid al-Fitr started in Muslim communities as early as Thursday night, when Islamic faithful observed the Takbiran, a procession in the old days but a motorcade in more recent times.

In the Takbiran, groups of scholars went around communities and recited “Allahu Akbar,” an Arabic chant which means “God is great.”

“We are happy that Ramadan ended peacefully,” Sema said.

As elsewhere in the country, Muslims gathered in their communities for prayers, and later shared food with relatives and neighbors’ as part of the Eid’l Fitr celebrations.

The government also declared Friday a national holiday.

For many Muslims, fasting during the Ramadan was more meaningful this year because of support from other faiths, said Mahid Mutilan of the Bishops-Ulama Conference.

On September 30 Catholic bishops and leaders of other Christian denominations hosted Muslim religious leaders in a Ramadan dusk dinner at the start of a two-day peace dialogue in Davao City.

Although interfaith outreach calls are not new in Vatican edicts, Filipino Christians who joined Muslims neighbors in the day long fasting during Ramadan gave ecumenism a new face in the interfaith dialogue with the minority Moro Muslims, according to Mutilan.

In the early 80s, peace activists organized the “Duyog Ramadan” not only as venue for Christian-Muslim dialogue, but followers of both faiths made Ramadan an occasion for deeper interfaith involvement in peace-building through basic understanding of comparative religions.

“Duyog” is a Visayan word which means “to do along with.”

Fr. Reynaldo Roque, who specializes on the church-media relationship, said while the Church was beset with issues generated by some reported cases of sexual harassment, Muslims were equally concerned about global problem of extremist violence and terrorism.

One participant pointed out that Muslims are enjoined to fast along with the “People of the Book,” when the Koran says: “O! ye who believe… Fasting is prescribed unto you as it was prescribed unto those before you that you may learn self-restraint.”

By “People of the Book,” the Koran refers with reverence to the Jews and the Christians, or the followers of Abrahamic religions, of which Islam is one, said Dr. Salipada Tamano of the Mindanao State University’s King Faisal Institute of Islamic Studies in Marawi City.

Tamano even quoted a Koranic verse that says: “Verily! You will find good friendship unto those who say, ‘We are Christians’.”

Shariff Julabbi, who has a doctorate in Lugatul Arabiya, the language of the Koran, said it is not true that the Muslims’ Holy Book refers to Christians and Jews as “unbelievers,” “pagans” and “hypocrites.”


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 02:00pm (Mla time) 09/25/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — A prominent Muslim religious leader in the country has issued a call to the entire Muslim community to unite and shun away all forms of violence.

Sheik Omar Pasigan, the Grand Mufti (guardian of the Islamic House of Opinion) of Mindanao, said in his Ramadan message read to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by his daughter, Mariam Pasigan Daud, on Tuesday that this was one of the obligations of an Islam believer.

The 75-year-old Pasigan also underscored the importance of Ramadan as a test of one’s self.

“Ramadan is the time for us to teach ourselves how to be patient and responsible. It discourages any forms of violence,” he said.

During the fasting month, which will end October 15, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the day.

“As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking,” Pasigan said.

He said Muslims were encouraged to use the month of Ramadan to re-evaluate their lives and make peace with those who have done them wrong.

Pasigan was a classmate of the late Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Salamat Hashim at the Al-Azhar University in Egypt and his opinions on Islamic law were respected by local Muslims. He is a cousin of current MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim and serves as the group’s spiritual adviser.

Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, liaison officer of the Darul Ifta (House of Opinion) in Maguindanao and executive director of Society for Family Development and Education, told the Inquirer that Pasigan’s influence as Grand Mufti reached as far as the Zamboanga peninsula and Davao.

“He [Pasigan] was chosen based on the consensus of other religious leaders. Actually, in choosing a Mufti, we have to consider if he is the most senior, attained high educational background, and has knowledge of Islamic laws,” Ebrahim said.

Pasigan also has the last word on any issues discussed among Muslim religious leaders, according to Ebrahim.

“Basically, he is the one giving the last word on every controversial issue. For example in the House of Opinion, his colleagues discuss a particular issue but after deliberations, the Grand Mufti will give the final opinion,” he said.


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Inquirer
Last updated 02:04pm (Mla time) 07/20/2007

 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Friday said the release of Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi in Lanao del Norte proved the information they have been feeding to the military — but which was supposedly largely ignored — was correct after all.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF information officer and chief negotiator, said had the military listened to them, the incident in Albarka (Tipo-Tipo), Basilan, where 14 Marine soldiers were killed, 10 of them beheaded, could have been avoided.

The incident occurred as government forces were on their way back to base after search-and-rescue operations for Bossi.

Iqbal said they had been telling the military that Bossi was not in Basilan but they were not heeded.

“We are happy that, indeed, the priest was released. However, we were saddened that many lives were lost due to the intelligence report regarding the priest’s presence in Basilan,” he said.

Iqbal said they believe the military had deliberately ignored the MILF information so that it could order troops to operate within rebel territory in Basilan.

“It’s clear the military lied and used the report to attack our forces in Basilan,” he said


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Inquirer
Last updated 05:00pm (Mla time) 12/03/2006

 

COTABATO CITY — Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have urged their fellow Muslims in Mindanao to practice the government’s birth-spacing program.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told reporters Saturday there was nothing wrong with the program because it was supported by the Dar’ul Iftah, an organization of Islamic religious authorities.

Kabalu said the Dar’ul Iftah issued in 2004 guidelines on the birth-spacing program, which is intended to prevent the country’s population from reaching unmanageable levels.

The country is 85 percent Catholic. The Church allows only natural family planning methods and considers the use of artificial means of birth control a grievous sin.

But based on the 2000 census, the country’s population is growing at the rate of 2.36 percent each year.

In mid-2006, the population was estimated at over 87 million. By 2025, the number of Filipinos is projected to reach 115.7 million and, given the five-year-old census baseline, the population could hit 100 million in the next five to six years.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Marawi City, is faced with the highest poverty rate in the country. Its 2.4-million population is growing by 3.86 percent with most families having an average household size of 6, the highest nationwide.

“We ask our sisters and brothers to coordinate with government health workers in their areas to learn more about birth spacing,” Kabalu said.

“This is necessary because it will help in all aspects of human life,” he added.

In 2004, more than 22 Muslim religious leaders led by Sheikh Omar Pasigan signed a Fatwah (opinion), affirming that “improved reproductive health conditions of the Muslim people benefit individual Muslims and strengthen the Muslim nation socially, economically, politically and in all other aspects of human life.”

They said a family planning program for the Muslim community in the Philippines should be anchored on the principles of non-coercion, responsible parenthood and informed choice.

The Fatwah also states that “all methods of contraception are allowed as long as they are safe, legal, in accordance with the Islamic Shariah, and approved by a credible physician preferably a Muslim for the benefit of both the mother and the child.”


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala

Mindanao BureauLast updated 02:17pm (Mla time) 06/27/2007 

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines — Moro gunmen holding Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi are demanding P15 million in ransom money in exchange for releasing their captive, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator, said on Wednesday. 

Iqbal said their “troops on the ground” have reported the supposed demand. 

Bossi, 57, was taken at gunpoint while on his way to celebrate Mass in the town of Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province on June 10.

His captors have reportedly brought him to the province of Lanao del Norte but have not established direct contact with anyone yet.

“They are demanding P15 million for Bossi’s freedom,” Iqbal said without saying how the demand was relayed. 

“But as far as we are concerned, we don’t entertain ransom demands from the kidnappers. Although in the first place, that’s their motive why they seized the priest,” Iqbal said by phone. 

A ranking police official in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said they too received report about the kidnappers trying to raise cash in exchange for releasing Bossi.

“What we know is that they are demanding ransom but it’s not specified how much,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The source said he could not officially speak on the Bossi kidnapping because his office was not the lead agency. 

Brigadier General Benjamin Dolorfino, chairman of the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), said however that he was not aware of any ransom demand.

“We have not received such kind of information about the ransom demand by the kidnappers,” he said. 

Dolorfino had admitted that a government emissary told him about the need to buy medicine for the priest, who is suffering from hypertension. 

Iqbal said the MILF, which has volunteered to help rescue Bossi, was still trying to locate the exact hiding place of the kidnappers. 

“Our troops are still on the ground helping government forces in search of the victim. But the captors are highly mobile that’s why it’s difficult to tract them down,” Iqbal said. 

There are reports that Bossi is being hidden in remote areas of Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte while there are indications he had been brought to Lanao del Sur already, according to a military source. 

Dolorfino meanwhile said the pressure in connection with the Bossi rescue operation has been increasing as the exact location of the kidnappers and their demands have yet to be ascertained. 

“We are not going to stop. All we need is to see all the different situations in a positive way, we have to be very optimistic all the time,” he said. 

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, said their troops have also been making a lot of sacrifices to ensure that Bossi would be safely recovered. 

“Our forces are sleepless, sometimes without food and exposed to rain and sun, just to make sure that no one will slip out of the areas they are securing,” he said. 

Kabalu said what made the task difficult for the MILF was that they were “left out of the information and negotiation efforts.” 

In Zamboanga City, Father Gianni Battista Sandalo, Bossi’s superior, said they have learned to be patient even as the search for the kidnapped priest remained fruitless.

“We have to be very, very patient and we have been trying to be upbeat especially in dealing with the family of Bossi [in Abbiategrasso]. We have to paint great and beautiful pictures of what is being done by our authorities here [because] once they hear something good, it eases [their worries], but telling them a different situation pained all of us here,” he said. 

Dolorfino had also reported that he received information Bossi was still alive. 

But while Bossi’s superior and government negotiators wanted proof, a colleague of the kidnapped priest said he believed that he was very much alive. 

Fr. Luciano Benedetti, who also experienced being kidnapped in 1998, said Bossi could be doing well despite his predicament.

“Because these kidnappers are also human beings and with more than 15 days in captivity, I know Giancarlo has already established good relationship [with them],” Benedetti said. 

Sandalo said in the event that authorities located the kidnappers’ lair he would prefer the use of negotiation to secure Bossi than the use of force. 

“As much as possible, no unnecessary force should be used,” he said. 

Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.  

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