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Hostage Crisis: 'Manila's strategy appears to be to get all of the hostages freed — through ransom payments or otherwise — and then bring down all its military might on the Abu Sayyaf.' — 'Cash, Guns — and Lives' [Sept. 1]

Filipinos today have many reasons to cheer. Among them, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's Camp Abubakar, which past Philippine presidents failed to take over, was finally neutralized. Now the Abu Sayaff has released most of its hostages in spite of the firm stand of the Philippine government not to grant an independent state to Muslim rebels in Mindanao (recently released hostages pictured). President Joseph Estrada's political will was proven in destroying the MILF and it can be again, this time in the rehabilitation of Mindanao.
Fernando J. Teves,
Sr. Pusok, Lapulapu City

The setting is Japanese-occupied Philippines. Imagine for a moment that Japan is winning the war and that the process of integration into the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere is on its way to becoming a reality. Japanese language and customs are forced upon the population, Shintoism and Buddhism are propagated and Filipinos are taught self-sacrifice in the service of the Emperor. In the meantime, Japanese settlers start grabbing land from Filipinos who have lived there for hundreds of years. Becoming second-class citizens in their own country, the only just course for the Filipino people is to fight against the invaders.

Of course, history was on the side of the Filipinos. But for many years, a parallel scenario has taken place amongst the Filipinos themselves along religious lines. As the leaders in Manila (an area dominated by Muslim Filipinos before Spanish colonization) try to convince the world that their offensive against Muslim "terrorists" and "bandits" is justified, Christian settlers have made Muslims a minority in what was once "Muslim Mindanao." And how much of Mindanao is Muslim? Only three of the 14 provinces: Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Lanao Sur. Go to neighboring Sabah and find tens of thousands of Filipino Muslims who took refuge there during the height of government oppression in the 1970s.

The easiest way for a Muslim family to advance its children's lot in life would be to send them either to parochial schools or government schools. Both systems, however, degrade Muslim culture and religion as well as ignore the Filipino Muslim contributions to the nation's history. Do we ever learn that Rajah Soliman, defender of Manila against the conquering Spanish in 1571, was a Muslim? Are we ever encouraged to wish our Filipino Muslim brethren an Eid Mubarak during Ramadan? Do we even know what or when Ramadan is?

So when we read of Estrada's celebration of the capture of Camp Abubakar with a roast pig and booze, whom can peaceful Muslim Filipinos turn to for guidance? If columnist Maximo Soliven says that the country is in peril because "our Filipino officials are pushovers, our church leaders have wishbone instead of backbone and peddle defeatism instead of faith, and that our government is weak and helpless," whose side is he taking? Whose faith?

The Abu Sayyaf by no means represents the Filipino Muslim community. However, if the grievances of the community are not dealt with seriously and with care, the consequences could be another Bosnia or Kosovo. The predominantly Christian Philippines must learn to put itself in the shoes of others if it is to say that it is truly a democracy for and by all its people.
Rod Orlina

Study the history of strife involving Muslims. Where they are in a minority, they refuse to merge with the mainstream. It is time that Muslim and all other countries separated religion from politics and evolve a civil law that is based on equality and human rights.
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