Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Reflections weeks after 1/25

On 1/25, the day of the Mamasapano tragedy, I didn’t get the news from the national and local media. I received a text from our partner organization in Maguindanao saying that a community was attacked by the government troops. It was not clear at that time. I thought that it was a “rido” or family feud of big strong political clans in the 2nd district of Maguindanao.

Later in the late afternoon of that day, I read in social media news about the PNP SAF operation and the MILF encounter. Images of the Ligawasan marsh, PNP SAF in full battle gear, and armed groups in Mamasapano flashed in my mind. My initial reaction was to raise some questions. I guess until now, we still have so many questions than answers.

As the details of the tragedy slowly unfolded in the news, social media, and mass media and once we learned that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) troops were identified by the PNP SAF as partly responsible for deaths of the government forces, I knew then that there would be a backlash against the on going peace talks, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the Filipino Muslims. Then, I asked myself, are we going to have an all out war all over again?

The comments and perceptions of non-Muslims on social media tell a very distressing tale. We can read non Muslims call for an all out war, comments against the Filipino Muslims, and generalizing that Muslims are war mongers and say that the Moro rebellion has no historical context. All these made me realize that the anti-Muslim bigotry became worse than ever.

The video of the brutal killing of the PNP SAF that was uploaded in the Internet provokes emotions of anger of our nation. The other side of anger is fear as many communities in Maguindanao are fleeing because of the on-going military operations against the BIFF.

The gruesome killings of the ISIS and ISIL in the Middle East exacerbate the anger to hatred of non-Muslims towards the Muslim all over the world. The recent beheading of Libyan Christians by the ISIS worsens these negative emotions.

How did we get to this mess? Like most Muslims, this is a question I’ve been asking myself over and over.

Based on my limited studies, I can raise few key factors. We cannot deny the horrible acts committed by radical and extreme Muslims have had a big impact. As I mentioned earlier, we have seen the bombings Jamaah Islamiya and Al Qaeda, the Boko Haram kidnappings of schoolgirls, the massacre of the Taliban groups in school ground, and now ISIS killings of Muslims and non-Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Another possible reason is that many Filipino Muslims and the Bangsamoro are not openly condemning these acts of terrorism. Most Filipinos want to be convinced that the radicals are truly the exception and not the “true” representatives of Islam. Most Filipinos do not have actual interaction with Muslims, thus their view of Islam and its followers are defined by the stereotyping of mass and social media.

I always say to my friends that condemning terrorism and getting media coverage as a way of clarifying these issues are two different things. When ISIS beheads a Muslim or groups of Non Muslims will be on the news for several hours and even weeks. These will have complete media coverage. But when we issue statements of condemning all these evil acts and Muslim leaders holding a press conference denouncing terrorism, will seldom get media coverage if we are lucky.

Because of the 1/25 Mamasapano tragedy, our network of Muslim and Christian inter religious dialogue faces several challenges in order to for our message to be heard. Filipino Muslims are a minority, and most communities in Visayas and Luzon do not have clear idea and knowledge of the Muslims.

In the social media, I encounter non-Muslims posting ideas about Islam based on their research from Wikipedia and Google. Thus, the idea that Dean Obeidallah (American Muslim journalist) raised which says, “if you only see news stories that present Muslims in a negative light, and you have no personal connection to Muslims to offer a counter narrative, I can understand why many hold negative views of us”.

The challenge of every Filipino Muslim in our local context is the issue that there is little positive picture of Muslim communities. In our social sciences and history books Muslims are depicted in the colonial setting as moros and juramentados.

The challenge of every Filipino Muslim in our local context is the issue that there is little positive projection of Muslim communities. Even in our social sciences and history books, Muslims are depicted in the colonial setting as “moros” and “juramentados”. Even though we are now in the year 2015, this colonial past are very much present in the hearts and minds of the Christians.

As the elections in 2016 is just around the corner, this also adds up to the bad picture of the Muslim – Christian relationship. There are people, mostly politicians, who intentionally strike fear and confusion and hate against our Muslim communities. These biases and prejudices affect the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The BBL is a product of more than 17 years of peace process, not only of the MILF, but the different communities in Mindanao. Unfortunately, the BBL is being held “hostage” and our lawmakers do not see the implications of delaying the passage of this bill. In my recent visit at the House of Congress, I want to be optimistic. I hope and pray that our lawmakers will see the big picture of Mindanao. I want our representatives to bring the message of peace at the national context.

We call for an All Out Peace, Now! Pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.