By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
San Francisco–Islam in the Philippines is rarely discussed, but within the archipelago, Muslims are a vibrant force.
Recently Dr. Clarita Carlos, a professor of Political Science at the University of the Philippines, and President of their National Defense College (NDCP), spoke in San Francisco about the Muslims of the Philippines.
Much interest in the Muslims of the Philippines has been generated by an ongoing uprising on the major Southern island of Mindanao, where many Muslims live..
Dr. Clarita Carlos is not a Muslim, despite her focus on Muslims in the Philippines as her subject-matter.
Carlosâ€™ theme was how non-Muslims can bridge the gap between their cultures and world Muslims–both political and psychological–to create a better and more equitable nation. She discussed how identity relates to security (unfortunately the discord between religions and cultures weakens this). These perceptions are less different than we may think.
American policy patterns are not too different than the perennial practicesâ€“including the policy against the Philippines. Carlos exclaimed, â€œWe have to simplify in my countrysides is easy to project an Axis to those who do not have an Axis within themselves.
â€œIn Manila,â€ she explained, â€œwe find 2.4 million Muslims over the country, yet they find themselves on the bottom of society as in so many minority Islamic countriesâ€“such as India
Muslims came to the Philippines via what now Indonesia in the 13th Centuryâ€“200 years before the Luso-Hispannics: The first European Colonizers. Muslims own only 17% of land. Much more land was owned by Muslims, but was stolen from them during the American colonial period.
The divide on the Islands are three: Christian, Shiâ€™a and Sunni. Muslims are looked down on in the country as being poor and backward. A negative image of Muslims is held all over the atolls, she explained. Although the Philippine popular media sided against D.C.â€™s recent position against Lebanon, many Philippine academics disagreed.
She says the mainly Christian nation should offer a hand to their Islamic citizens. There are few opportunities for Muslims there now.
â€œUnfortunately, weâ€™re dependent to outsiders.â€ She bemoans the fact that there is very little information in the international media on the Filipino Muslim community. There is a tendency to look on all Muslims as a unitary group worldwide. It is curious (and correct in a limited sense) that all religions are â€œreligions of peace.â€ Then why is there discord between groups at times? â€œWe must learn to put the concept of peace as the establishment of agreement between people.â€