Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Finding Meaning for Bangsamoro

Things around us are moving fast more than we know it. The more we move forward, I sense that we are bound to come back to the beginning of where we all actually come from. This reminds me of what Tariq Ramadan once wrote in his book, Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, that says, “Even the most distant pathways always lead us inward, completely inward, into intimacy, solitude between our self and our self—in the place where there is no longer anyone but God and our self”.

Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss academic and writer. He is also a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University. He also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. (Wikipedia)

Some of my non Muslim friends think that Muslim scholars are limited to the Middle Eastern arabs. But in realty, it is not. There are many American, British, and even Asian Muslims who work hard in finding meaning of Islam and todays challenges. As a Filipino Muslim, I am trying my best to bridge the gap of the moro advocates to that of the mainstream Muslim Filipinos.

Unknown to most of us, even Paulo Coelho, in his novel The Alchemist, has brought in one of the most traditional and deep teachings of Sufism (Islamic mysticism). For me, it is best to understand plurality and multiculturalism of our local context in the lens of sufism. Thus, Tariq Ramadan challenges every Muslim by saying, “Go, travel the world, watch, look for the truth and the secret of life—every road will lead you to this sense of initiation: the light, the secret, are hidden in the place from which you set out. You are on your way not toward the end of the road but toward its beginning; to go is to return; to find is to rediscover”.

In the days to come, once the whole new political entity will take place, people will then question the relationship of the individual person or subject (in our case the Muslim communities) to that of the dominating political identity. This will carry a form of resistance problematic to the level of consciousness, subjectivity, intentionality, and identity.

But as much as I do not agree with the whole idea of the narrative of the creation of the Bangsamoro myth, I find myself working on ways to ensure that this peace agreement will be the last peace agreement that our country will ever have with the moro rebels.

In my realization, the whole construct of the moro identity has simplified the diversity of the Muslim Filipinos. It also led many of us to presume that we have a monolithic identity and consciousness. What most of us does not know is that the process of identifying ourselves with this political construct, we created a bigger tendency of “dissolving the subject” because the real nature of the problem of each and every community that we have was forced to be part of a virtually non coherent history and nationality of the word moro. But these are all water under the bridge.

What do we do now? How do we transcend and make sure that we all recognize our diversity and that we live in a multicultural and pluralistic society.

My proposal is this. We need to recognize meaning-making as an important facet of the growth of our society in Central Mindanao. What do I mean by meaning-making? According to Charles Kurzman (a  Professor of Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specializes in Middle East and Islamic studies) said that, “The concept is a broad one that draws on multiple traditions in sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences. At its root is the proposition that humans constantly seek to understand the world around them, and that the imposition of meaning on the world is a goal in itself, a spur to action, and a site of contestation”.

Moreover, meaning-making “includes moral understandings of right and wrong, cognitive understandings of true and false, perceptual understandings of like and unlike, social understandings of identity and difference, aesthetic understandings of attractive and repulsive, and any other understandings that we may choose to identify through our own academic processes of meaning-making”. (Kurzman 2008)

Thus, I recommend that we redefine the word Bangsamoro as Bangsamoro Communities (with emphasis on the plurality of the word). The Holy Quran has always reminded us of the nature of mankind. This was clearly described in Suratul Hujjurat (The Compartments) that says: O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Verse 13)

The mystical religious leaders of our Muslim communities, the Panditas (Sufis), always remind us of love and compassion as essential to our very existence and spiritual journeys. Like what Rumi once said, “love is the remedy of all ills and the alchemy of existence; love transforms poverty into riches, war into peace, ignorance into knowledge and hell into heaven”. “Jalal al-Din Rumi, born in modern day Afganisthan in 1207 AD is arguably the best known in the West of all the great Sufi writers. Rumi stipulates that while love is of the essence in Sufism, it is something that has to be experienced to be understood. “Love cannot be contained within our speaking or listening. Love is an ocean whose depths cannot be plumbed…….Love cannot be found in erudition and science, books and pages…..the kernel of Love is a mystery that cannot be divulged”. (Diwan-i-Shams-I Tabrizi)

In the present context of peace in Mindanao dialogue between and among the different moro fronts, religions, and ethno linguistic groups is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Thus, in trying to find meaning in the word Bangsamoro, it has to reflect the diversity of our people with love and compassion of acceptance of this reality.