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PH Muslims honor Osama

March from mosque to US embassy on Friday
By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 01:37 AM May 06, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Manila’s Muslim community will offer a memorial to Osama bin Laden after Friday’s noontime prayers at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo.

Sheikh Jamil Yahya, chair of the Bangsamoro Supreme Council of the Ulamas, has been invited to lead the prayers and deliver the khutbah (sermon), according to an advisory. He is to lead a funeral service for Bin Laden afterwards.

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After the memorial, a number of Filipino secular and civil society groups are to hold a “sympathy march-rally” from the mosque to the US embassy on Roxas Boulevard.

Nash Pangadapun, secretary general of Maradeka, an umbrella group of Muslim civil society organizations, academic groups and political parties, Thursday said many Filipino Muslims, particularly the imams (clerics) and ulamas (scholars), were critical of the way the US government had disposed of Bin Laden’s body.

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“If it’s really true that he’s dead, then his body shouldn’t have been thrown to the sea. It should have been given to his family [for] a decent burial. The US claim that he was buried in accordance with Islamic law is not true because Islamic law requires earth burial for the dead,” Pangadapun told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

He also said “it’s not too late to recover the body.”

Pangadapun, who is to attend Friday’s activities at the Golden Mosque, said many Filipino Muslims backed the causes of Bin Laden but not the way he pursued them.

“Many support his religious and political beliefs but not exactly his means of doing it,” Pangadapun said, adding that Bin Laden’s general stand against the US government had many sympathizers in Muslim Mindanao.

The United States quelled resistance in Muslim Mindanao when the Philippines became an American colony in the first half of the 20th century.

After independence, the Philippines was also backed by the US government in quelling the secessionist rebellion in Mindanao.

Reprisals

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On the other hand, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) expressed concern about possible reprisals by Bin Laden supporters and sympathizers around the world.

“We advise the government as well as our community leaders not to let their guard down. Al-Qaida and Bin Laden still have supporters in conflict-affected Mindanao,” PCID president Aminah Rasul said in a statement.

Rasul said that with the turmoil in the Arab world, particularly in Libya, and the continuing troubles in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the world’s “peacekeepers” were being stretched thin.

“Although the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah presence in the Philippines has been greatly decimated, we cannot rule out the possibility of violent retaliation by Bin Laden’s Philippine-based supporters,” she said.

Rasul said national and Muslim Mindanao leaders, including political and religious chiefs, should “cooperate in securing the communities from terrorist attacks” especially because the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were holding peace negotiations.

“We must ensure that the [peace talks] will be insulated from any untoward event emanating from the death of [Bin Laden]. Together, we should be focused on ensuring that our aspirations for a genuine and lasting peace and democracy will not be derailed by missteps that may be the result of the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death,” Rasul said.

Law professor Harry Roque also said the US decision to conduct the raid on the northern Pakistan compound where Bin Laden lived without coordinating with Islamabad should alarm other countries, especially the Philippines.

“It showed that the US would not hesitate to conduct police operations even outside its territory with or without the consent of the territory involved,” Roque told the Inquirer.

“There is reason for the Philippines to be alarmed. It could happen to us and any other country,” he said.

Bishops worried

Roman Catholic bishops in Mindanao added their voices to the growing concern about possible terrorist attacks in Mindanao following the death of Bin Laden.

In separate phone interviews with reporters, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos said they agreed with government officials that terror attacks could take place in the South.

“Mindanao areas are very vulnerable to terrorist activities because these places are their hideouts. The threats are always present and our worry is it could be exacerbated with the death of Osama bin Laden. We are really worried about possible retaliation,” Jumoad said.

Said Bagaforo: “Terror threats in Mindanao are real. Bin Laden and the Jemaah Islamiyah have strong supporters based in Mindanao. They have done terrorism before and they can possibly do it again.”

Pueblos cited the “real possibility [of retaliatory attacks] with the presence of al-Qaida here in Mindanao.”

All vulnerable

The bishops called on the military and police to intensify their presence and operations against suspected terror cells in Mindanao.

“We only ask the military to double their security status,” Jumoad said.

The prelates also called on their flock to cooperate with authorities in fighting terrorism.

“We call on everyone’s cooperation. We’re all vulnerable to terrorism. We need to pray to defeat evil,” Bagaforo said.

Asked how the people in Cotabato were reacting to concerns about retaliatory terror attacks, he said: “Not too worried as to hamper our normal activities. But many people [have become] careful and security-conscious. Businessmen are more worried about kidnapping.”

Pueblo said that while al-Qaida had a presence in Mindanao, he doubted that attacks would take place while the peace talks between the government and the MILF were ongoing.

On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said the government was focusing its efforts on preventing retaliatory attacks from Bin Laden’s allies and sympathizers in Mindanao.

The Cabinet security cluster also said attacks were more likely to happen in Mindanao than in Metro Manila.

Because of VFA

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago warned that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States had put the Philippines in the line of fire for possible retaliatory attacks by Bin Laden’s supporters.

Santiago, former chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said Manila’s close ties with Washington, firmed up by the VFA in particular, made the Philippines a natural target of terrorists, especially in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing.

“That is the biggest handicap inflicted by the VFA,” she told reporters, noting that the Philippines was seen by other countries as “a forward operating base of the United States.”

“We have allowed them to come here with their military personnel and equipment because they are, in effect, an advance party, so that when it is necessary for the full force of the US military to occupy Philippine territory, these forward operating bases are ready to receive them,” Santiago said.

“Naturally, in a strategic campaign against America, the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, will be one of the prime targets,” she said.

Dire consequences

Santiago maintained that the VFA was “unconstitutional” even if the Supreme Court said otherwise with finality last year.
She said that to terminate the VFA, President Benigno Aquino III only needed to notify the US government.

“I’ve already said that in my view, it is unconstitutional,” she said. “We’ll have to be able to convince the President to give a notice to the other party pursuant to the terms of the VFA so that we can terminate it.”

But Santiago admitted that abrogating the VFA would have “dire consequences for our country.”

“The US will definitely … rethink its priorities in giving away surplus equipment and military hardware to developing countries like us and giving military assistance and grants to its allies,” she said, adding:

“In other words, if we terminate the VFA, we get cut off from American largesse… grants and aids. Everything. That’s very difficult.” With a report from Christian V. Esguerra

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TAGS: Acts of terror, alQueda, Jemaah Islamiyah, Mindanao peace process, Politics, Religion & Belief
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