Filipinos hate communism

Islam in the southern Philippines

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. The arrival of Islam

III. Spanish colonial rule

IV. American colonial rule

V. Independence (1946-1965)

VI. The Marcos era



IX. The 1987 Constitution and the ARMM

X. The peace agreement with the MNLF

XI. The peace talks with the MILF

XII. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

XIII. The current developments in Filipino Islam

XIV. Conclusion and Outlook


I. Introduction

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, the terms have been Islam, Islamism, and Islamist fundamentalism to synonyms for the terrorism become. Under the guise of the “fight against terrorism”, Muslim groups are increasingly controlled, monitored and, in some cases, fought militarily.

The example of the Philippines shows that Islamism cannot be equated with radical fundamentalism. Although Islamic sultanates arose early on the archipelago, which have been in resistance against the respective state structures since the Spanish colonial era, the Philippine government seems to have largely succeeded in integrating the Philippine Muslims. Peace negotiations are ongoing with the currently largest rebel group, the MILF, and are expected to be concluded in September this year (2006). Such an agreement has already been concluded with the MNLF, which grants the Muslims of Mindanao an autonomous area. Still, with the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) not yet solved all problems. In order to show where possible problem areas could lie, the Muslim-Christian conflict in the south of the Philippines is first analyzed from a historical point of view, in order to then consider the current domestic political framework.

There is a great deal of literature on the events in the southern Philippines since the arrival of the Spaniards, of which I would like to mention only the most important. I found the works of McGowing, Larousse, McAmis and Yegar very helpful. For me, my most important sources of current information were various articles by Loewen, Abubakr and Hedmann, as well as the Internet in general, and the MILF homepage in particular.

II. The arrival of Islam

Muslim traders probably arrived in the Philippines in the tenth or eleventh century. However, the first evidence of their presence dates from the thirteenth century on the island of Jolo. Tuhan Muqbalu, a foreign, probably Arab Muslim, is commemorated on a tombstone on Mount Datu. Most of Sulu's sultans were later enthroned in the place where the tombstone is located.[1] From the islands of what is now Indonesia, Islam spread northward to Mindanao, and then to Manila. There are various theories for the rapid spread: On the one hand, it is believed that Islam came to the Philippines with Indian traders. On the other hand, the conversion brought certain political and economic advantages. Other experts assume that Islam came with the Sufis, who spread it through proselytizing. In fact, the combination of these three facts was probably responsible for the spread of Islam.[2]

The first records of Islamic proselytizing come from the Muslims on Sulu. Karim al-Makhdum, an Arab judge, came to what is now Jolo in around AD 1380. Another important step with regard to the spread of Islam came with the arrival of Sayyid Abu Bakr, around 1450 AD. The Arab married a girl from the local aristocracy, and expanded Islam to Jolo and established a sultanate on Sulu. He claimed to be descended from Mohammed and was the first in a line of Muslim sultans. Eventually other foreign Muslims came, married into the local population and converted more and more Filipinos.[3] One of the most important missionaries was Sharif Kabungsuwan, who established the Islamic sultanate in what is now Maguindanao. In the 16th century there were already three sultanates, whose territories still form the core of Islamism in the Philippines today.

III. Spanish colonial rule

With the colonization in the 15./16. In the 19th century, however, the Islamization process was stopped abruptly. The Spanish found Islam extremely threatening and tried to convert the entire archipelago to Christianity. They quickly conquered the small, fragmented communities on Luzon and the Visayas, but they should - even in a series of bloody, so-called ones Moro Wars - never succeed in the Muslims they disparagingly with the Spanish expression for Moors designated to submit completely.[4] In 1876 Jolo could be conquered, but the Muslims either moved further inland or made their way as seafarers.

However, during the 300 years of the war, some of their areas were burned down, the residents were forcibly relocated and their economic system was destroyed. Those who converted to Christianity were taught to hate Muslims:

[...] These Christian Filipino [s] were explicitly instructed that the Muslims were the traditional enemies of their newly acquired faith.”[5]

Since all economic and political activity was also relocated to Luzon, the Muslims were completely isolated in Mindanao. They saw the Christian Filipinos as enemies, as they provided the majority of the Spanish troops. The roots of the developing tensions between Christians and Muslims still lie in these extremely long-lasting Moro Wars:

"[...] the present-day relations and tensions are a direct result of this paricular period of history.”[6]

IV. American colonial rule

In 1899 the Americans, who had received the archipelago after the end of the Spanish-American War, took control of the Philippines. According to President McKinley, the goal of the United States was to promote the development and education to create a democratic, one day independent Philippines.[7] However, this also envisaged the incorporation of the Moro into the new political system.

The Americans did not hesitate to use force to impose their will. Unlike the Spaniards, however, the ultimate aim of the American policy was the incorporation of the Moros in the body politic of an independent Philippine state. [8]

As a result, they and their institutions were pushed aside and subjugated.[9] The inclusion of the Islamic elite in the colonial system of rule facilitated the lack of missionary efforts.[10] So they were able to do that with the Moro as early as 1899 Bates -Conclude agreements to prevent the latter from interfering in the war against the communist rebels in the north of the archipelago (1899-1901). The agreement required the Moro to recognize American sovereignty, but guaranteed them non-interference in their religious practices and customs as well as protection from foreign interference (especially Christian Filipinos).[11]

The turning point in the relationship between Americans and Muslims occurred in 1903/1904 when the Americans passed from indirect to direct rule. The Bates Agreement was abolished, taxes introduced, and the Moro territories divided into administrative units. The five districts of Sulu, Cotabato, Zamboanga, Lanao and Davao became the Moro Province summarized, in which among other things American schools, hospitals, and the American legal system was introduced. This Americanization, but especially the expansion of the infrastructure, partially freed Mindanao from its isolation and made it more accessible.[12] The fact that the Moro Province, which was divided into the departments of Mindanao and Sulu in 1914, was to be integrated into the Philippine state, the Moros saw as a fraud, as did radical Americanization. It is therefore not surprising that they met the Americans with increased suspicion:

[...] Muslim-American relations were, at least from the Muslim perspective, based on a sense of distrust.”[13]

In fact, it wasn't until 1916, after cruel warfare and numerous massacres of the civilian population, that the Americans succeeded in completely suppressing the Moros.[14] The Philippine legislature took control of the Mindanao and Sulu departments, and tried to reintegrate the Moro into a unified Philippines.[15] In fact, the two archipelagos were exploited economically. The number of foreign or Christian-owned plantations on Mindanao and Sulu rose sharply. However, since most of the produce was exported, there was famine in 1911 after a period of drought. In order to promote rice cultivation in Mindanao and at the same time relieve the overpopulated north, the Americans then initiated the influx of Christian Filipinos from the Visayas and from Cebu to Mindanao and Sulu. In addition, the Americans hoped to nip the Moro's efforts to separate through better cultural exchange in the bud.[16] From 1918 to 1939, over 46,000 Christian migrants came to Mindanao to work on the plantations. The Moro perceived this increasing Christianization of their traditional areas as another deception:

[...] After a few years the Muslims in the South started to realize that this was a fabricated plan to control them in the South and deprive them of their lands.[17]

In the years of Commonwealth (1935-1946) the Moro finally realized - after their request to become an American province in order not to be under (Christian) Filipino control - that their resistance was futile. They tried to come to terms with the Americans as best they could and in 1935 they first took part in national elections and accepted the new constitution of the Commonwealth.[18] Although the new President Quezon spoke out in favor of improving the prosperity of the Moro, his social and economic development programs were primarily aimed at the betterment of the Christian settlers in the south of the Philippines.[19] Moro leaders, on the other hand, were excluded from official functions. Tensions between Christians and Muslims were further exacerbated during the Japanese occupation in World War II (1941-1945), during which Muslims and Christians fought each other to a greater extent.[20]

V. Independence (1946-1965)

Nonetheless, after the Philippines gained independence on July 4, 1946, Muslim guerrilla leaders were elected to political office and were represented in both Houses of Congress. This brought considerable economic development impulses to the areas of the Moro, who then received funds to rebuild their infrastructure.[21] But due to the numerous problems of the destroyed country (reconstruction, armed communist rebellions of the Huk in northern Luzon, increasing population numbers) the Moro problem faded more and more into the background.[22] An “integration” was intended, and in 1957 one specifically Commission of National Integration (CNI). Its aim was the permanent and complete integration of all ethnic minorities into the state. Although the CNI had broad powers, few political concessions were made to the Moro, so that integration would still have meant assimilation and conversion - which is unacceptable for believing Muslims.[23] Instead, the resettlement of Christian Filipinos to Mindanao took on systematic proportions from the 1950s onwards. As part of an export-oriented modernization policy, the government attracted the region with funding programs, the expansion of infrastructure and subsidies.[24] This should also solve the demographic problems of the (overpopulated) north, and the communist rebels in northern Luzon with the prospect of land are encouraged to give up voluntarily. In this context, all land on Mindanao that was uninhabited was declared public, although it was traditionally and customarily owned by Muslims. But since they could not produce any papers, they were unceremoniously expropriated.[25] Würfel speaks of an inverse land reform: Thousands of small farms lost their land to large landowners of plantations.[26] The result was another creeping shift in demographic conditions in the southern Philippines.[27] While the proportion of the Muslim population in Mindanao was 98 percent in 1913, this had fallen to just 30 percent by 1978.[28]


[1] Diamand M.J./P.G. Gowing (1981): Islam and Muslims. Some basic information, New Day Publishers, Quezon City: p. 69.

[2] Abubakar C. A. (2005): "The Advent and Growth of Islam in the Philippines", in: Nathan, K.S./M.H. Kamali (Ed): Islam in Southeast Asia. Politicial, Social and Strategic Challenges for the 21st century, ISEAS, Singapore: p. 50.

[3] Diamand / Gowing (1981): p. 70.

[4] Diamand / Gowing (1981): p. 76.

[5] Larousse, W. (2001): A Local Church Living for Dialogue: Muslim-Christian Relations in Mindanao-Sulu (Philippines) 1965-2000, E.P.U.G., Rome: p. 87.

[6] McAmis, R.D. (2002): Malay Muslims. The history and challenge of resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Cambridge: p. 29.

[7] Larousse (2001): p. 93.

[8] Salmi, Ralph H. (1990): Islam and dissent in non-arabic world. A Comparative Analysis of the Iranian Shi`i and Filipino Sunni movements, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor: p. 199.

[9] according to Werning (2001): p. 182.

[10] Loewen, H. (2005): "The Peace Process in the South of the Philippines between Terrorism and Separatism", in: Southeast Asia currently, Vol XXV, 3/2005, Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg: p. 3.

[11] Che Man, W.K. (1990): Muslim Separatism: The Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Southern Thailand, Oxford University Press, Singapore: p. 46f.

[12] Larousse (2001): p. 97.

[13] Salmi (1990): p. 203.

[14] Werning (2002): p. 185.

[15] Che Man (1990): p. 52.

[16] Larousse (2001): p.103f.

[17] Larousse (2001): p. 114.

[18] Che Man (1990): pp. 55f.

[19] Gowing / McAmis (1974): p. 178.

[20] Larousse (2001): p. 115f.

[21] Gowing / McAmis (1974): p. 182f.

[22] Larousse (2001): p. 118.

[23] Che Man (1990): pp. 59f.

[24] Werning (2001): p. 186.

[25] Larousse (2001): 119f.

[26] Wurfel (2005): "Government Responses to armed communism an secessionist rebellion in the Philippines", in: Jeshurun, Ch. (Hg): Governements and Rebellions in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore: p. 229.

[27] Werning (2001): p. 187.

[28] Werning (2001): 187.

End of the reading sample from 23 pages