Zamboanga City – Zamboanga City-based ulama, Muslim professionals and traditional leaders issued a statement over the weekend counteracting the letters of extortion, suspected to have been concocted by the lawless Abu Sayyaf group, that recently circulated in Basilan Province.
“The time has come for the Muslim Ummah to condemn those impostors, who use Islam for their own devilish selfish motives,” the statement which was issued during the Muslim leaders’ consultative meeting on the occasion of “Isra wal Miraz” (Ascencion of Prophet Mohammad) last July 30. The letter was signed by some 23 Muslim leaders coming form different communities, offices and organizations.
“We, the silent majority, are saddened and pained every time Islam is painted and portrayed as a religion of the sword and intolerance by those who do not belong to the faith and even by some who proclaim themselves as followers of the faith. It is disheartening that some people, who want to give a wrong impression of Islam, simply select a few words from the Qur’an, distort them and put them in the wrong context, all in order to show that Islam supports violence and evil motives,” it added.
In the past few weeks, Basilan residents particularly the Christians were alarmed over the letter, whose signatories identified themselves as “Mujahidin” (Islamic warriors). They threatened to used force against the Christians residents if they would not convert to Islam or otherwise pay an Islamic tax. “If you don’t give Jizya (Islamic Tax), remember that we will be enemy forever,” the letter written in Filipino threatened.
But according to Sheikh Talib Tanjil, executive director of the Imam Khomeini Islamic and Guidance Center based in this city, the demands of these people are primarily “unIslamic.” He explained that Jizya can only be applied in an Islamic state.
“In our country and in Basilan, Jizya cannot be collected from Christians because we are not governed by the Islamic government,” Sheikh Tanjil – who was also one of the signatories of the statement – explained to members of media last Saturday, August 2 where they presented the statement.
Prof. Ali T. Yacub, Lead Muslim Convener of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), organizer of the meeting, said they do not allow any group to taint nor malign Islam for their own selfish interest. “Islam is no way a religion of compulsion,” he said.
“Therefore we invite people of peace and goodwill to join us in our concerted effort to spread the real message of Islam. LET US UNITE TO CONFRONT THE FORCES OF EVIL THAT ONCE AGAIN THREATEN OUR PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE,” he appealed, quoting the last part of the statement.
The letter was presented to the Christian community through Zamboanga City Archbishop Romulo Valles in a simple ceremony last Sunday, August 3.
Among the notable personalities who signed the letter were Universidad de Zamboanga President Dr. Arturo Amar Eustaquio III, Ah-haj, Retired DepEd Superintendent Hji. Abdu Rahim Kenoh, Prof. Alih Aiyub of Salam Peace Foundation, Sheikh Bahari Camlian of the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA), Datu Albiu Julkarnain of the Council of Royal Datu, Prof. Yacub, Sheikh Tanjil, and Mr. Jaafar Kimpa and Ustadz Jamal Mohammad of the Jabu-jabu, Inc. among others.
Earlier, Basilan’s sectoral groups also issued a statement condemning the letter and appealed to peace loving residents to be united over the issue. The letter, which was signed by at least 13 Basilan-based non-government organization, also “called on elected officials and law enforcers to discharge their primary duties and responsibilities.”
In the same development, the Basilan Ulama Supreme Council (Dar Al-Ifta) issued a separate position paper also counteracting the earlier issued threat letter of the ASG. The Dar Al-Ifta also explained that Jizya as mentioned in the letter is never applicable in Basilan or anywhere in the country. The group also condemned the series of kidnapping incidents in the island province, which they described as “a type of transgression which God (in Islam) has prohibited”.
The group also appealed “to every Muslim and non Muslim alike in this Province as well as other neighboring Provinces in this region to work hand in hand in fighting an inhumane and violent activities if only to preserve justice, fairness and peaceful co-existence of our peace loving citizens (Ummah).”