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An enduring freedom for the Moro people

This will be the second time in 100 years that the United States finds itself in conflict with the Moro people of Southern Philippines. It will be the second time since September 11, that the West finds itself in conflict with a people whom it knows nothing about.
AN ENDURING FREEDOM

The second-phase of Operation Enduring Freedom was launched last week:
to hunt Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Basilan and Sulu. Whilst
originally a breakaway from the Moro (Muslims of the southern
Philippines) independence movement, the 800-strong Abu Sayyaf have
devolved into a gang of bandits whose primary objective seems to be
lining their pockets with the proceeds of kidnapping tourists and
missionaries. They are hardly international terrorists.

Yet, like India with its maneuverings against Kashmiri militants, or
Russia with its war against Chechen separatists, the Philippine
President knew which button to press to get US sympathy. She termed
her opponents "terrorists", and linked them to Bin Laden. This was
based only on a 1995 meeting with Bin Laden's brother-in-law, Muhammad
Jamal Khalifah, and some contact with Ramzi Yusuf, the 1993 World
Trade Centre bomber.

So, once again, the West is entering into conflict in a region whose
complexities most of us know little about.

The struggle of the Moro people for freedom and self-determination is
one of the longest, if not the longest, struggles in the history of
mankind.

Their struggle began with the "discovery" of the Philippines by
Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, who claimed the island for Spain. The
Moros rejected his claim, and he was subsequently killed by Lapu Lapu,
a Moro Muslim leader. From then on, the Moros were in a fight
for their independence and freedom.

The Spanish differentiated the two natives of the archipelago into
pagan Malays (Indios) and Muslim Malays (named Moros after the Spanish
Moors). Their policy was simply to convert the Indios to Christianity
and kill the Moros.

The military resistance against the Spanish lasted over 350 years,
until the Spanish were defeated by the Americans in the 1898
Spanish-American war. Despite the fact the Spanish had never
colonized the Morolands, Spain included Mindanao in the Treaty of
Paris, which transferred sovereignty to the United States.

The US then attempted to subdue and disarm the Moros. Such was the
resistance, that the US Army ordered the upgrade of the standard issue
Colt .38-caliber pistol to the more powerful Colt .45-caliber, in
order to stop the knife-wielding Moros. Their frenetic and oft
suicidal style of fighting gave us the expression, "running amok".

The colonial administration then began passing laws that would quell
Moro aspirations of independence by migrating large numbers of
Christian Indios to the region.

In 1903, all Moro land holdings were declared null and void and made
open to land-grabbing. In 1913, law was passed allowing Christians to
own up to 16 hectares, whereas a Muslim could only own 8. In 1919,
Christian land entitlement was generously extended to 24 hectares.

When independence from the US was imminent, the Moro leadership pled
not to be included in the new "Independent Philippines". Yet, on July
4, 1946, when independence was proclaimed, the Morolands were
incorporated against their wishes, as they had been with the handover
from Spain to the US.

The pattern of migrating Christians to Moro lands continued. In the
1950s, Northern peasants formed the New People's Army and staged a
Maoist rebellion. In order to defuse the situation, the government,
under the auspices of the Economic Development Corp (EDCOR) began
migrating these peasants to the Moro south and giving them seized
parcels of Moro land.

In 1968, anger at Manilla reached a new level, when the US-backed
Ferdinand Marcos executed nearly 70 Muslim commando recruits to keep
secret an aborted plan to invade Sabah, in Malaysia's Borneo.

When Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, the Moros went
to war after a quarter of a century of relative dormancy.

Shortly afterwards, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was
formed, which called for an independent Moro state - Bangsamoro. They
fought the US-armed Manilla regime for twenty-five years, leaving at
least 100,000 Moros dead, and 250,000 driven from their homes.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a peace deal with the Philippine government.

In a war that has been criticized for it's double-standards, this
latest US military adventure will do little to change perceptions.

America is helping fight the 800-strong Abu Sayyaf, whilst overlooking
the New People's Army, who represents a force of over 12,000
fighters. They've been staging a communist insurgency in the north
for the last 30 years, and have killed over 40,000 people so far,
including an American hiker and his German companion killed last week.

The problems in the Morolands have little to do with international
terrorism, but have everything to do with the injustices meted out to
the Moro people for centuries.

The solution to the Moro problem is the same as the solution to the
East Timor problem.

There must be a referendum under UN supervision similar to the one
conducted in the former Portuguese colony.

After over 450 continuous years of struggling for independence, the
Moros don't need "Operation Enduring Freedom", they just need freedom.
----

Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public
Affairs Committee (AMPAC)

--

Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC)
PO Box 180
PASCOE VALE SOUTH VIC 3044
Tel/Fax: +61-(0)3-8300-7556
Email:  info@muslimaffairs.com.au
Web:  http://www.muslimaffairs.com.auTo the Editor,

Please find below a submission for your opinion pages. As the US is
now working with the Philippine Army in hunting the Abu Sayyaf gang,
I thought it might be beneficial to provide some context to the
problems that are occurring in southern Philippines. Most people are
probably quite unaware as to the historical context for the Moro
independence movement which Abu Sayyaf falsely claims to represent.

I hope you find it useful, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Amir Butler
Executive Director
Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee


------

The second-phase of Operation Enduring Freedom was launched last week:
to hunt Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Basilan and Sulu. Whilst
originally a breakaway from the Moro (Muslims of the southern
Philippines) independence movement, the 800-strong Abu Sayyaf have
devolved into a gang of bandits whose primary objective seems to be
lining their pockets with the proceeds of kidnapping tourists and
missionaries. They are hardly international terrorists.

Yet, like India with its maneuverings against Kashmiri militants, or
Russia with its war against Chechen separatists, the Philippine
President knew which button to press to get US sympathy. She termed
her opponents "terrorists", and linked them to Bin Laden. This was
based only on a 1995 meeting with Bin Laden's brother-in-law, Muhammad
Jamal Khalifah, and some contact with Ramzi Yusuf, the 1993 World
Trade Centre bomber.

So, once again, the West is entering into conflict in a region whose
complexities most of us know little about.

The struggle of the Moro people for freedom and self-determination is
one of the longest, if not the longest, struggles in the history of
mankind.

Their struggle began with the "discovery" of the Philippines by
Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, who claimed the island for Spain. The
Moros rejected his claim, and he was subsequently killed by Lapu Lapu,
a Moro Muslim leader. From then on, the Moros were in a fight
for their independence and freedom.

The Spanish differentiated the two natives of the archipelago into
pagan Malays (Indios) and Muslim Malays (named Moros after the Spanish
Moors). Their policy was simply to convert the Indios to Christianity
and kill the Moros.

The military resistance against the Spanish lasted over 350 years,
until the Spanish were defeated by the Americans in the 1898
Spanish-American war. Despite the fact the Spanish had never
colonized the Morolands, Spain included Mindanao in the Treaty of
Paris, which transferred sovereignty to the United States.

The US then attempted to subdue and disarm the Moros. Such was the
resistance, that the US Army ordered the upgrade of the standard issue
Colt .38-caliber pistol to the more powerful Colt .45-caliber, in
order to stop the knife-wielding Moros. Their frenetic and oft
suicidal style of fighting gave us the expression, "running amok".

The colonial administration then began passing laws that would quell
Moro aspirations of independence by migrating large numbers of
Christian Indios to the region.

In 1903, all Moro land holdings were declared null and void and made
open to land-grabbing. In 1913, law was passed allowing Christians to
own up to 16 hectares, whereas a Muslim could only own 8. In 1919,
Christian land entitlement was generously extended to 24 hectares.

When independence from the US was imminent, the Moro leadership pled
not to be included in the new "Independent Philippines". Yet, on July
4, 1946, when independence was proclaimed, the Morolands were
incorporated against their wishes, as they had been with the handover
from Spain to the US.

The pattern of migrating Christians to Moro lands continued. In the
1950s, Northern peasants formed the New People's Army and staged a
Maoist rebellion. In order to defuse the situation, the government,
under the auspices of the Economic Development Corp (EDCOR) began
migrating these peasants to the Moro south and giving them seized
parcels of Moro land.

In 1968, anger at Manilla reached a new level, when the US-backed
Ferdinand Marcos executed nearly 70 Muslim commando recruits to keep
secret an aborted plan to invade Sabah, in Malaysia's Borneo.

When Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, the Moros went
to war after a quarter of a century of relative dormancy.

Shortly afterwards, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was
formed, which called for an independent Moro state - Bangsamoro. They
fought the US-armed Manilla regime for twenty-five years, leaving at
least 100,000 Moros dead, and 250,000 driven from their homes.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a peace deal with the Philippine government.

In a war that has been criticized for it's double-standards, this
latest US military adventure will do little to change perceptions.

America is helping fight the 800-strong Abu Sayyaf, whilst overlooking
the New People's Army, who represents a force of over 12,000
fighters. They've been staging a communist insurgency in the north
for the last 30 years, and have killed over 40,000 people so far,
including an American hiker and his German companion killed last week.

The problems in the Morolands have little to do with international
terrorism, but have everything to do with the injustices meted out to
the Moro people for centuries.

The solution to the Moro problem is the same as the solution to the
East Timor problem.

There must be a referendum under UN supervision similar to the one
conducted in the former Portuguese colony.

After over 450 continuous years of struggling for independence, the
Moros don't need "Operation Enduring Freedom", they just need freedom.
----

Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public
Affairs Committee (AMPAC)

--

Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC)
PO Box 180
PASCOE VALE SOUTH VIC 3044
Email:  info@muslimaffairs.com.au
Web:  http://www.muslimaffairs.com.au

homepage: homepage: http://www.muslimaffairs.com.au