Militant Islam’s Expansion in the Southern Philippines
Militant Islam’s Expansion in the Southern Philippines Anastasia Pentzakoff The rise of militant Islam in the southern Philippines poses catastrophic consequences for the future of the Philippines and the world in regards to the escalation of terrorism. Militant Islam plays a major role in the southern Philippines, terrorizing that region as well as the Philippine government. It is the purpose of this paper to expose the gravity of militant Islam in the Philippines and its significance in relation to the threat of terrorism. This paper provides an underlying background of how Islam evolved in the Philippines, tracing its development from the traditional religion of Islam to its present state and practice of militant Islam. This paper discusses three militant Islamic groups in particular that prompted the rise of militant Islam, thus creating a welcoming environment for terrorist groups, namely Al-Qa’ida, to further their terrorist goals. Included is an explanation of the specific factors that set the Philippines apart from other countries, making the Philippines more susceptible in playing a greater role in the acceleration of terrorism. Based upon the information and arguments of many distinguished sources, my own perspective regarding the severity of militant Islam in the Philippines is incorporated as well. In order to understand militant Islam’s rise to power, it is vital to explore its beginnings. It is important to distinguish between the traditional religion of Islam and the more popular ideology, which transformed into the practice of militant Islam. The religion of Islam literally refers to the submission to the will of God and seeks to teach humans how to live in accordance with God’s will. Muslim traders from the Indonesian islands were among the first people to bring the Islamic religion to the Philippines. By 1500, Islam was established in Sulu Archipelago and spread from there to Mindanao; it also reached the Manila area. A Muslim community arose throughout the Philippines; however, it remained centered in the southern Philippines. The people of this southern region are referred to as the Moro people. Over time through their intermarriages, the Muslim population expanded and began dominating. Naturally, the religion of Islam became the dominant religion. However, problems with the Muslims arose when the Spanish came to colonize the Philippines. One of their objectives was to convert the Filipinos to Christianity. The Spaniards succeeded in occupying the islands; however, they failed to convert them completely because of active resistance in the south. By means of intense fighting, the southern region managed to sustain its Islamic religion. Spain’s rule came to an end in 1898 as the result of the United States, which proceeded to colonize the Philippines soon after. The Americans did not try to enforce Christianity with violence like the Spanish; instead they tried to impose it through the education of the Moro rulers in the south. Not only did this prompt Muslim resentment to grow even more, but the education also paved the way for Islamic rulers to enter into the political sphere. Eventually, the Philippines became an independent nation. The Philippine government has attempted quite a few times to disperse its Muslim population by moving Christians into the south from the north. Nevertheless, the south remains predominantly Muslim, while the majority of the Philippines is Catholic. The Muslims only comprise approximately five percent of the population of the Philippines; however, they have strong clout in the southern region, which accounts for their strength in the Philippines. The Muslims’ strength derives from their defensive nature that they acquired during periods of colonization when they had to defend their religion as well as region. The Muslims came together as a community, strengthening their identification with Islam.