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Bibles for evacuees and plan for Muslim-only ID “risk inflaming tensions”



A Christian group has risked providing a pretext for Islamist radicalisation by handing out Bibles to Muslim evacuees from Marawi city.

Similar concerns have been expressed over proposals for a Muslim-only ID scheme.

Islamic teacher Abdulharim Ambor, whose school is currently an evacuation centre, said evangelists had distributed Bibles to about 300 families.

“Of course, the people want help and they need help, but what they don’t need today is an insult to their sensibilities,” he said.

“The aim really is to convince Maranao Muslims to embrace the Christian faith.” He added that the Bibles, entitled ‘Su Sindaw’ or ‘The Light’, were included in hygiene kits – consisting of soap, toothpaste and shampoos – and school supplies.

Evacuee Hadji Amir Ali told The Inquirer that members of the group urged the evacuees to read the Bibles. “Others were told it was a history book,” he said.

Mr Ali said the group took turns speaking about Christianity and introduced a man who was purportedly a Maranao convert.

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Mr Ali said he was incensed but “I held my cool and let them do their thing. I know my faith will not change just because they gave us something we really need, such as hygiene kits.”

Fred Dimamay, a member of the group that distributed the Bibles, admitted they included Bibles in the kits they gave away but did not mean any harm or offence.

“When we were distributing the kits and the Bible, no one spoke against us. We just asked them to read it if they want.”

Mr Ambor warned that while the evangelists may not think it offensive to distribute Bibles, it could be used by hardline Islamist groups to radicalise people.

“We cannot tell what will happen. So I am appealing to our brothers in the Christian faith, please don’t mix evangelisation with your attempts to help the needy Maranao,” he added.

Meanwhile, the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other Muslim leaders have criticised a proposal to replicate in Central Luzon the Muslim-only ID system of Paniqui town in Tarlac.

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Governor Mujiv Hataman said his region “expresses alarm over reports” that the Paniqui local government is implementing a Muslim-only ID system.

“We believe this policy clearly discriminates against the believers of Islam and could set a dangerous precedent. It could also ignite anger among young Muslims who are the primary target for recruitment of extremist groups,” he said.

“If the requirement is security related, the ID system should be applied to every resident of the community, to every Filipino, not just Muslims.”

He warning came as authorities in Central Luzon mulled replicating Paniqui’s controversial Muslim-only ID across the whole region.

Imam Council of the Philippines president Ebra Moxsir described the proposal as “saddening”.

“But if our brother Muslims will be singled out, the majority would be sad,” he said.

“Why just the Muslims. Are only the Muslims the extremists?”

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Shariah lawyer Harun Ali, secretary general of the Imam Council of the Philippines, said the proposal was “actually a violation of human rights”.

In an interview with Rappler on Friday, lawyer said: “If the government is only requiring Muslims to have an ID, that is unfair, unequal, an oppression, and contrary to the principle of equality and fairness.

“It should be imposed upon all Filipino people because we are one Filipino people and we should be united as one.”

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV on Saturday also released a statement on the issue, pushing for a unified ID system through his proposed Filipino Identification System Act.

He said an ID system should be used to promote safety and improve government services, not “to encourage discrimination”.

“Singling Muslims out, giving them an ID and branding them as a potential threat will not make our communities safer. It will only sow animosity.”

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