IF the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Sulu followed by the grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga City are trying to sow discord and disunity among Filipinos, they are not going to succeed.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) voiced this confidence, saying the people of the island province and the Zamboanga Peninsula city have been living together for many decades.
NCMF Secretary and CEO Saidamen Balt Pangarungan pointed out that they are just like the residents of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, who have been living for several decades in peaceful and harmonious co-existence until the tragic events that started in May 2017 that led to the destruction and devastation of the Philippines’ only Islamic City.
NCMF Secretary/CEO Saidamen B. Pangarungan (left) and NCMF Executive Director Tahir S. Lidasan during a press conference over the Jolo and Zamboanga City bomb attacks.
Lanao del Sur and Sulu, including Basilan, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi comprised the soon-to-be abolished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by a new political entity, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as a result of the Mindanao peace process between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
But the terrorists are not going to succeed in their dastardly and evil objective, the Maranao lawyer and former Lanao del Sur governor said.
He said the perpetrators were only few compared to the millions of Muslim Filipinos who follow and practice Islam’s values on peace, harmony, co-existence, among others.
As this developed, Pangarungan appealed for the exercise of calm and sobriety during a press conference on February 1 as the NCMF leadership met with members of the media at the commission’s office along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
“I appeal to all our countrymen to be calm and let us wait for the investigation being conducted by the concerned law enforcement agencies of the government over what happened in Sulu (and Zamboanga).
“The President (Rodrigo R. Duterte) is very much on top of the situation, taking action on this problem and we (in the NCMF) are doing our share also to (calm) the Muslims and the Christians in the affected areas,” he said.
Pangarungan slammed the twin bombings of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo and the grenade attack on the Masjid Kamahardikaan in Zamboanga City as “despicable, barbaric, and un-Islamic because in our Holy Qur’an places of worship like churches, the Jewish synagogues, mosques, and (monk’s temples) are protected in Islam.”
Muslim and Christian groups join together to condemn Jolo and Zamboanga City bomb attacks as they expressed oneness and solidarity for peace, unity, and harmony during a Walk for Peace and Solidarity at Quezon City Memorial Circle (QCMC), Metro Manila.
“Everyone, including Muslims, are duty-bound to protect and defend these places of worship in times of peace and war,” he emphasized.
He said that those who kill an innocent person is just like one who slays the whole of humanity as he referenced a verse in the Qur’an. “If anyone slays a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people.” Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 32.
During the press conference, NCMF Executive Director Tahir S. Lidasan, Jr. read a prepared statement of the NCMF secretary.
In response to the Jolo bombings in Mindanao that killed more than 20 people and injured almost 100, the (NCMF) condemned in the highest form “this act of terrorism and all forms of violence, especially in places of peace and worship of the religious.”
The NCMF said the twin bombings and the pre-dawn attack on January 30 on Masjid (Mosque) Kamahardikaan in Logoy Diutay, Talon Talon, Zamboanga City “are acts of cowardice and terror that the government is working hard to address immediately without dbias, a job that is being made difficult by numerous conjectures and politicking.”
In the prepared statement, Pangarungan and the rest of the NCMF expressed oneness with the nation in mourning for those who have perished, and are praying for those who suffered injuries.
He noted the intertwined lives of Filipinos.
“We all have a Muslim and Christian in our lives, be it a neighbor, a friend, or loved one. Let us all remember this. If we allow the thoughts of hatred and discrimination pervade our minds, then we allow the terrorists to further drive a wedge between us Filipinos. May God watch over us always,” the NCMF secretary said.
In the open forum of the media conference, Pangarungan said the cathedral attackers wanted to sow discord and disunity among the people of Sulu, just like the perpetrators of the siege in Marawi where Muslims and Christians have peacefully co-existed.
In Marawi, the Maute/Abu Sayyaf/ISIS Groud desecrated a church and destroyed Western schools as they held captive many Christians as hostage.
“Only these misguided extremists are capable of doing these dastardly acts in the Jolo bombings and in Zamboanga,” he added.
Meanwhile, he related that the NCMF — to address violent extremism — just launched on January 27 at the Mindanao State University (MSU) Main Campus’ International Conference Center in Marawi City a nationwide campaign in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Japanese people under the “Strengthening National and Local Resilience against Violent Extremism.”
He said the NCMF will bring the activity to other parts of the country, among them in Zamboanga, Cotabato City, Cebu City, and National Capital Region (NCR) to spread the message against violent extremism.
Over 1,000 ulama (Islamic religious leaders, students and youth participated with enthusiasm, he said.
Some of Walk for Peace and Solidarity participants held on Feb. 3 at the QCMC.
The NCMF secretary said the campaign aims to protect Muslim Filipino youth from violent extremism, discourage them from joining extremist groups, and educate them on the true values of Islam, being that the Muslim religion is a religion of peace.
“Islam demands love and respect to our fellowmen. In our daily greetings, we say ‘assalamu alikum (peace be unto you). That’s how important peace is to Muslim Filipinos,” said Pangarungan, the amerul hajj for the 2019 Hajj Mission to the Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the coming months.
The NCMF head also emphasized the importance of educating the Muslim youth on patriotism or love of country as well as remind them of the ISIS destruction of the cities in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lanao del Sur, and the suffering of the affected population.
Finally, Pangarungan stressed that “ultimate goal” of the campaign to defeat violent extremism is “to make Marawi the first and last city in the Philippines to be destroyed by this extremists and their foreign ideology.”
In a related development, a group composed of Filipino scholars and teachers on Islam joined the condemnation of the violent attacks in Mindanao.
“The National Ulama Cooperation of the Philippines (NUCP) and the Regional Darul Iftah (House of Opinion) (ARMM-RDI) are deeply disturbed and saddened by the recent bombings at Jolo cathedral in Sulu and killing and injuring Christian civilians and soldiers.
“We believe this evil act was intentionally done to sow terror and division and re-ignite old wounds and conflicts in Mindanao in furtherance of their agenda,” the NUCP said in the statement provided to SDN — Science and Digital News by Prof. Abdulhadi Daguit, who is also a commissioner of the NCMF.
The NUCP reminded that extremists and terrorists are real and they are present in Mindanao, if now across the Philippines.
Their presence is shown by their terroristic activities such as kidnapping, bombing, and beheading of their hostages, the NUCP added.
The Islamic religious leaders also offered their deepest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families.
They also urged the authorities to do their utmost to dig deeper and identify the and arrest the perpetrators of the terrorist acts in order to give justice to the victims.
“Let us be united (as Muslims and Christians) to protect human lives and dignity, respect and uphold the rule of law, and adhere to the teachings of Islam and Christianity to love God, our neighbors as ourselves.
“We call on our people not to be easy prey to religious conflict and political manipulation,” they NUCP said. (EKU)