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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A challenge to the MILF, as well as to Aquino and Deles



The following is an article I wrote on an interview with Moro Islamic Liberation chairman Hashim Salamat published in the reputable magazine Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) on March 28, 1996, years before Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda gained notoriety after his 9/11 New York attack.
Salamat’s official title then, which current MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim dare not assume, was Amir Al-Mujahideen, “Commander of the Holy Warriors,” his name preceded by the title Ustadz, or teacher of Islam. Salamat died in 2003, reportedly as his health suffered because he had to be continually on the run after President Joseph Estrada ordered an all-out war against the MILF. His ideas, though, still constitute the MILF’s ideology and goals. The Bangsamoro Mujahid: His Objectives and Responsibilities, which he wrote in 1985, has been required reading for all MILF members and fighters.
The FEER article verbatim:
* * *
Within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, chairman Hashim Salamat is a near-mythical but shadowy figure. Many of the organization’s other leaders haven’t ever seen him in person, but he has contacts throughout the vast world of Islamic militancy. He cultivated these ties in the 1960s, as secretary-general of the Organization of Asian Students at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, and later in Pakistan, where he appears to have studied in the late 1970s.
Essentially a religious leader – he preaches Islam through radio broadcasts in Mindanao – Salamat seems to have an acute military sense.
AS a founder of the Moro National Liberation Front in 1970, he conceived and organized the training of what became the officers’ corps of both the MNLF and the MILF. [This was the so-called “Batch 90” of MNLF fighters whom Salamat arranged to be trained, reportedly by retired British Special Air Service officers in Malaysia, which former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir himself recently confirmed. – RDT] In the 1980s, he ordered the deployment of MILF guerillas alongside Afghanistan’s mujahideen, then fighting the Soviet-backed Kabul government. [Among the financiers and fighters of these mujahideen was Osama bin Laden – RDT]
MILF founder Salamat: Have they renounced his goal for an independent Islamic state?
MILF founder Salamat: Have they renounced his goal for an independent Islamic state?
Salamat’s strongest and philosophical influence are said to be Syed Qutb of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syed Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan’s Jamaat I Islami Party. These writers, both now dead, have a substantial following among Islamic militants worldwide. [Qutb’s teachings inspired Al Qaeda while Maududi’s, the idea of establishing Islamic states as a religious obligation – RDT]
Some of Salamat’s responses to the interview:
On the MILF’s goals: Only the full independence of the Bangsamoro people with an Islamic state will solve the problems of Mindanao. The Bangsamoro homeland was unjustly annexed by the Manila government. And it succeeded in gradually annihilating the Bangsamoro Muslims. In the 1960s, they numbered 3.5 million out of a Philippine population of 23 million, according to statistics of the Manila government itself. By 1993, Muslims totaled only 2.8 million, while the total population has grown to 66 million. This tactical genocide must be stopped.
On the MILF’s demand for autonomy: Autonomy will not work. When the Manila government was not happy with Zacarias Candao, the first governor of the so-called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, they did everything to defeat him in the succeeding elections and replace him with a real puppet. The same thing will happen to any autonomy in Mindanao. It will only be manipulated and controlled by the Manila government.
On the MILF’s strategy: Like all unjust, oppressive and corrupt governments, the Manila government will collapse. When this happens, the Bangsamoro Islamic government will automatically arise.
We will exert all possible peaceful means to achieve our goal. However, in the meantime, we continue to build up the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and strengthen the apparatus and machinery of the Front. [In an interview with this author around the same time, Murad Ibrahim, now the MILF chairman and then its vice-chairman for military affairs, explained that the MILF already had the structure and core battalion for six divisions, which are about the same as the Armed Forces’ troop strength.]
On the main difference between the MNLF and the MILF: The MILF believes that since the Bangsamoro people are mostly Muslims, they must not deviate from the correct Islamic line in both peace and war. The MNLF might be willing to compromise Islam as a complete way of life. But the MILF is not willing to do so. Islam is the ultimate solution to all human problems.
On non-Muslim’s place in an MILF state: Under an Islamic state, all the different tribes and religious groups can live side by side and enjoy full freedom without being prejudiced.  End of FEER article.
My colleague, Tony Lopez of Asiaweek magazine, also interviewed Salamat in March 2000, in which the MILF leader discussed in more detail his ideas:
“To make it very simple, our demand is independence. It means having a separate territory, a separate government, a separate armed forces, the power to tax, the power to exploit our natural resources, the power to conduct foreign affairs, the power to negotiate with other countries, including Manila.
“It is our right to demand independence. The only way to solve the problem permanently is to give the Bangsa Moro people independence. Make them free. We want the East Timor formula. The East Timor formula is asking the East Timorese whether they wanted independence or autonomy. So they voted for independence. If East Timor became independent, why not our people?
“Independence can be the subject of negotiations. If the Philippine government can show us something that can address the problem of our people, then we do not close our doors. We will consider the possibility of signing a temporary agreement ­­ before independence.”
It seems that Salamat, many years later, would get the “temporary agreement” he was dreaming of, and it is called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that requires the enactment of a Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The challenge
My challenge to the MILF’s chairman, Murad, and its chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal:
Can you categorically state that the MILF is no longer following its founder and former religious leader Salamat’s goal of establishing an independent Bangsamoro Islamic state?
My challenge to President Aquino and his chief adviser on the MILF:
Can you ask the MILF chairman Murad and Iqbal whether they are still following its founder’s ideas, and inform the public of their reply? Would you check our immigration bureau to see if the top MILF officials use Philippine passports that say they are Filipinos?
If the Muslim insurgents’ ultimate goal is to establish an independent Islamic state, shouldn’t the Bangsamoro Basic Law contain safeguards that will automatically block the MILF and the Bangsamoro government from even attempting to set up such a state?
tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao

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