Slain imam ‘beautiful example of true Islam’
BAGUIO CITY — Astride his mountain bike, Bedejim Abdullah was one of the outdoorsmen who would often be seen pedaling through busy city streets or up difficult mountain trails.
But for many residents, he was a 55-year-old scholar who explained Islam and its philosophies to anyone who cared to listen. He also defended his faith when controversies affected the Muslim community here.
Shortly after 11 a.m. on Thursday, a lone gunman shot dead Abdullah on busy Kayang Street near the public market. The attack took place outside his office, a 3-minute walk from the Baguio police station and the City Hall.
But the gunman escaped from three policemen who gave chase, slipping past them when he took off his black sweatshirt. He threw his gun as he ran past Maharlika Livelihood Center. The gun backfired as it hit the ground, wounding a woman in the leg.
Police are now tracing the gun’s ownership.
Senior Supt. Eliseo Tanding, city police director, had assured Muslim residents here they were safe. He said police were doing everything to catch Abdullah’s killer.
The victim’s family had not issued a statement and was busy with funeral arrangements at his home province, Bulacan.
But the murder sparked a massive outcry from friends, government officials and members of nongovernment organizations.
For 17 years, Abdullah volunteered as a cleric for Muslim cadets at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here.
“He had always emphasized [the need for] working together regardless of race, religion and ethnicity in nurturing peace and understanding towards a God-fearing nation,” the PMA said in a statement.
Abdullah was also a member of the Cordillera police advisory council.
He was a resource person for the government’s halal project implemented by the Department of Science and Technology.
On Friday night, 100 cyclists and environmental groups held a tribute ride for Abdullah, a founding member of the Daily Cycle Movement Baguio (DCM) and a core member of the reforestation advocate Cordillera Conservation Trust (CCT).
Aldrin Dacanay, a DCM member, said Abdullah last rode with the group on Nov. 18 during the 6th Green Ride, an annual event they organized to promote environmental conservation.
Jim Ward, DCM cofounder and cafe owner, said he first met Abdullah in September 2004 when a group of preachers from various faiths dined in his cafe.
“Cycling was our first bond. He had a lot of curiosity about [my religion] Buddhism as I did about Islam. That was our second bond. We became fast friends,” Ward said.
“He used to be a butcher operating in the Islamic halal tradition. So we jokingly called each other ‘Jim the butcher’ and ‘Jim the vegetarian.’”
Ward said Abdullah was “a beautiful example of true Islam.” “I saw him deal with fear and ignorance about his faith with wisdom and compassion. He just wanted people to know the beauty in his faith and what it meant to him,” he said.
While most enthusiasts used the bicycle for sport, Abdullah and DCM used it as a basic mode of transportation, believing it was a practical solution to air pollution and soaring fuel prices, Ward said.
CCT cofounder, Joseph Paul Alipio, said Abdullah brought a deeper understanding of Islam to Cordillera. Losing him would “make room for more extremist Islamic leaders to fill the void,” he said.
“His senseless death also underscores the continued violence [under this administration]. The assassin would not have been so brazen to [kill Abdullah] in broad daylight if there were no precedents. Unfortunately, precedents happen far too often these days,” Alipio said. —Reports from Karlston Lapniten, Kimberlie Quitasol and Valerie Damian
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