An Islamic sub-state in the southern Philippines may become a reality following an agreement between that government and a Muslim separatist group that has been fighting a war for independence for decades.
Last month, the government signed an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to create a region called “Bangsamoro” in what is now the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The agreement also creates a commission that will work to end the Islamic insurgency.
Although the agreement states that shar’ia will not be applied to Christians and other non-Muslims in Bangsamoro, international religious liberty expert Elizabeth Kendal raised concerns about Muslims who wanted to leave their religion.
Would Muslims living in Bangsamoro be allowed to leave Islam – a right already guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution – or would that fall under the jurisdiction of a shar’ia court that could hand down a death penalty for any adult male Muslim who leaves the so-called “Religion of Peace”?
Mindanao Christians had objected to a previous government brokered agreement in 2008. Fearing that they would be living in an Islamic state, they petitioned the Supreme Court, which ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional; the MILF responded by killing about 400 Christians and displacing thousands of others, according to Barnabasaid.
Historically, the Philippine government had previously fought against a group called the Moro National Liberation Front, but after a peace was brokered with it in 1996, the Islamists who rejected that peace formed the MILF out of the MNLF as they continued their armed struggle for independence. And as the government signs a new agreement with the MILF, yet another group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has split from it to continue violent jihad.
So while the Philippine government literally gives more ground to its Islamist insurgents, it inadvertently gives birth to even more extremist groups that insist on more Muslim demands.