MILF Leader Prepares for Public Life

Category: World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Philippines Views: 5734
5734

Hashim Salamat, chairman of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reads the Quran in a library in his well guarded quarters located in the jungles of Camp Abubakar 27 February. The camp occupying three towns is main MILF camp in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Hashim Salamat, the head of the largest Filipino Muslim rebel group which signed a ceasefire pact Tuesday with the authorities, is a religious scholar who spent most of his adult life in the jungle or in foreign exile fighting the Philippine government.

Following the landmark agreement, the 59-year-old Salamat, who is chairman and founder of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is expected to come in from the cold and lead a more active public life.

Born to an affluent and aristocratic Muslim clan in the southern island of Mindanao, Salamat left on a traditional pilgrimage to Mecca when he was 16 and did not return home until 1970, ready to wage war on his government.

Military intelligence officials say Salamat clandestinely organized a core group of Filipino Muslim students who planned a separatist guerrilla campaign from Egypt in the early 1960s.

He also arranged the training in the east Malaysian state of Sabah in 1970 of the first armed cadres of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the officials say.

Among the 90 trainees was former professor Nur Misuari of the University of the Philippines, who would later serve as founding chairman of the MNLF.

The MNLF "jihad" or holy war broke out in Mindanao in October 1971, with Salamat serving as vice chairman.

A stickler for the strict interpretation of the Quran in the culture of the southern Philippines, Salamat parted ways with Misuari in the late 1970s, accusing his ally of hewing too closely with the communist line.

An MILF document said Salamat was first educated in his own house, tutored by his mother. At age six he could read the Koran and had memorized some of its verses. He completed primary and secondary education at government-run schools in the town of Pagalungan before going on his pilgrimage.

The military said he reached Cairo in 1959, where he was caught up in the political activism in the Middle East at the time. He established a group called the Philippine Student Union that staged several demonstrations protesting the oppression of Muslims in Mindanao.

He enrolled at the Al Azhar University to pursue a study of Islamic theology and philosophy. Civil war in his homeland prevented him from finishing his doctoral dissertation.

The 12,500-strong MILF said its top leader spent the 1980s in self-exile in Pakistan, where he "ordered the deployment of hundreds of MILF guerrillas alongside Afghanistan's mujahideen, who were then fighting the Soviet-backed Kabul government."

Meanwhile his group recruited thousands of Filipino Muslim youths who were sent to Islamic schools in the Middle East. On their return to Mindanao, "they served as Salamat's aides in the implementation of the MILF Islamization program and jihad activities in the homeland."

After long-serving Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos was toppled in a popular revolt in 1986, Salamat returned home and set up his headquarters at Camp Abubakar, a sprawling MILF training camp in the central Mindanao rainforest.

Wearing a black Muslim cap, horn-rimmed glasses and sporting a wild goatee, the stocky but greying rebel leader presided over a low-level rebellion from a fortified bungalow stocked with books.

The military, under the orders of former president Joseph Estrada, routed the MILF from dozens of its camps last year, accusing the group of training Indonesian separatists at the camp.

But the MILF was not stifled until Estrada's successor President Gloria Arroyo offered the hands of reconciliation after she stormed to power in January.

_______________________________________________

Cecil Morella writes for AFP.


  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Philippines
Views: 5734

Related Suggestions

 
COMMENTS DISCLAIMER & RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.