In the Philippines, Does Autonomy For Muslims Sate, Or Whet, Their Appetites?


Photo: In this photo provided by WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines, a soldier looks at the site inside a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in southern Philippines after two bombs exploded Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 killing at least 19 people and wounding nearly 50 during a Sunday Mass, officials said. The first bomb went off in or near the Jolo cathedral in the provincial capital, followed by a second blast outside the compound as government forces were responding to the attack, security officials said. (WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Editor’s note: This was penned before today’s gruesome Islamic attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Philippines, killing 20 – answering the question to this headline.

In the Philippines, Does Autonomy For Muslims Sate, Or Whet, Their Appetites?

By: Hugh Fitzgerald, Exclusive to Geller Report:

In the Philippines, on January 20, inhabitants of the Muslim-majority south voted by a landslide to create a new autonomous region, covering five provinces and three cities. Almost 1.6 million voted yes, while 250,000 voted no. This result is being hailed by many in the Philippines as the way to finally end the violence in Mindanao, which has been plagued for years by Muslim insurgents in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and by members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. The government hopes that this yielding to Muslim demands will bring a permanent peace to a war-torn part of the country and address issues that lure recruits to Isis-inspired groups.

By anther vote on February 6, more towns and villages were given the chance to join the autonomous region.

The plebiscite sealed the peace agreement that the government originally signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, but which languished in the national legislature until it was approved last year. The rebels have pledged to end a three-decade separatist uprising that killed more than 100,000 people in exchange for broader autonomy. However, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, and smaller terrorist groups inspired by Isis, refused to take part in the plebiscite and continue to kidnap and behead Christian villagers.

The Moro Liberation Front’s chairman, Murad Ebrahim, is almost certain to lead the government in the new region of Bangsamoro, which has more powers than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it replaces. The Muslim autonomous region will also receive an estimated $1.3 billion grant to bolster development in an area with high poverty rates.

“We really see this as a huge challenge, because from being revolutionaries, we will be transforming into governance. That will be very challenging, because many of us have never been in government,” said Murad.

Two steps that will determine the success of the newly created region will, following the plebiscite, now be taken First, there is the setting up of local governance. A Bangsamoro Transition Authority, a body with 80 members, will be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to govern until October 2020. That is when elections will take place across the country, and those appointees will be replaced by officials who have been elected. Whether the political transition will go smoothly, whether the Muslims are sufficiently satisfied by the powers given to the autonomous local government, remains to be seen.

Second, the Moro Liberation Front has pledged to demobilise its 30,000-40,000 forces in exchange for social and livelihood assistance. Will the Front receive a sufficient amount of assistance to honor its pledge? And is not this “assistance”a kind of Jizyah, given to the Muslims in exchange for their promise to ceaseto attack Christians, both soldiers and civilians?

This plebiscite is being hailed as a great victory for peace. But it sounds to me more like a victory for Muslims who are finally being given a large degree of self-rule, and more than a billion dollars in extra aid. The Moro Liberation Front may officially disband, but its troops can be called back at any point, if the government in Manila is judged to be insufficiently generous in the benefits it offers.

The granting both of a very great deal of autonomy to the Muslims in the south, and of unprecedented amounts of aid for them, will not make the Filipino Muslims grateful to the Infidels. Why should they be? They, the Muslims, are the “best of peoples” and the Unbelievers “the most vile of created beings.” They will be happy to pocket what they have exacted from the central government — a high degree of political autonomy and enormous amounts of economic aid. Such a surrender by Manila will not sate, but only whet, Muslim appetites. It is not right that large numbers of Muslims should be ruled over by non-Muslims anywhere, and certainly not the 13 million Muslims who live in the Philippines. If we have achieved this much, through our insurgency, the members of the (supposedly) disbanded Moro Liberation Front must think to themselves, why not threaten a return to that insurgency unless ever greater amounts of self-rule are granted? The more autonomy the Muslims enjoy, the more they will want something approaching complete self-rule, and the harder it will be for the government in Manila to deny them. For that central government, faced with the constant threat that, unless these new demands are granted, the whole agreement between the government and the Muslims will come unravelled, the Moro Liberation Front will swiftly reconstitute itself, and begin its insurgency all over again, is likely to yield. The central government is more weary of war than are the Muslim insurgents. And meanwhile the terrorists of Abu Sayyaf, who have never disbanded or laid down their arms, will continue to attack Christian civilians and soldiers in the south, repeating the maximalist demands for independence that they have never given up.

Right now everyone is cheering in Manila, with much mafficking, for Peace Is At Hand in the southern Philippines. Or so many fondly believe. But while the Christians think in terms of compromise, the Muslims think in terms of Victory, to be achieved in the case of the Bangsamoro Region by making demands for ever greater amounts of autonomy, and for ever less control by the central government, demands likely to be met by those who do not want a return in the south to the bloody status quo ante.

Muslim doctrine is very clear: the whole world belongs to Islam. Muslims have a duty to wage Jihad, in order that eventually Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere. They are not to be ruled permanently by non-Muslims, but may temporarily accept such status while working to achieve independence from, or even better, dominance over, their current non-Muslim rulers. There is no reason to think that Muslims in the Philippines do not share that view, or that they will be satisfied by an accord that stops far short of independence.

This arrangement, just ratified, brings the Filipino Muslims greater autonomy, which will allow them to become accustomed to the responsibilities of rule, strengthen their hold on the reins of power in the Bangsamoro Region, and give them time to prepare for a new round of hostilities if their future demands for still greater autonomy are not met. The Unbelievers have given in, and the deal has not sated, but will only whet, Muslim appetites. Give this new agreement two-three years to work itself out, and at the end of that time let us see if the Muslims are quite satisfied with their autonomy or if, instead, they demand still more. I expect that that will happen, and I hope that I am wrong.

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