Islam in The Philippines is slightly different to Islam elsewhere … same as any other religion really …
Islam makes world headlines every other day with many a negative headline. Then again so does the Catholic church. One headlines with terrorism, the other with child abuse. And, in both cases its the minority that’s giving rise to many of these negative stories.
No, this not your typical holiday season article, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t be. Moreover where I’ve been living the last few months has been noted by the UN as more dangerous than Afghanistan, Iraq or Zimbabwe. Not sure about Julian Assange’s front room, but I’m guessing yes to that one too these days.
Here by choice, but not for much longer. Here’s a different perspective on a world in turmoil at this time of year.
When was the last time peace and goodwill, that religion preaches about, made world headlines?
I’ve written before that my religion is a little bit of everything. I’ve traveled in countries that are Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Voodoo, and all manner of minority religions & beliefs. And, all manner of mixes. I’ve never had an issue with any.
What I like about Islam
I really like Islamic architecture. There’s rarely a mosque in the world I would not want to photograph. The most beautiful so far has
been Badshahi in Lahore Pakistan.
I enjoy listening to the call to prayer. The most amazing call to prayer so far has been in Morocco. The call comes in, as it has for centuries, across the landscape before you. Swallows fly in the morning, or evening, breeze. A sign that life is waking up, or going to rest.
I can’t help but be impressed at witnessing hundreds or thousands of people all bowing and praying at the same time. It’s nothing to do with what they believe, it is simply; an impressive sight.
I enjoy the history of Islam as I do most other religions. Some of the oldest texts today are religious. Some of the greatest mysteries today are religious.
And, the religion?
Nope, not interested. Yes, I will respect all religions, but no I will not side with any. There’s been too much bloodshed over thousands of years to even tweak my interest in a full on devotion to any religion these days.
The difference in Islam across the world on my travels
As with many religions, I’ve noticed Islam differ in nearly every culture. And, again no. I am not going to go in-depth here and start dividing things up into Sunni or Shiite etc. This is just the basics.
- Morocco was devout, and accepting of all people.
- Turkey similar, but it is very relaxed as alcohol and many other restrictions are becoming very common place.
- Iran was strict, but more from a government enforced point of view. The people themselves still hold onto old views, but are very welcoming and trusting.
- Pakistan was again very strict, but once more, war can do a strange things to a land and a people. I was welcomed in and there were never any questions.
- On the border with Afghanistan I sat with long bearded men and AK-47’s and talked about Alexander The Great. We lifted up Russian mortar shells, and expired land mines then looked at new American munitions arriving before us.
- In West Africa I was invited into mosques so many times by friends that I was even given an Islamic nickname. Then, the fighting began …
Islam vs Christianity in my travels
In Nigeria it is 50% Islam 50% Christian. Both work together every day. Between person to person, there was no conflict. Then add in the extremists, poverty, boredom, politics, low education and … unholy war breaks out.
JOS is a wonderful small town on a cool plateau where I’ve stayed on many an occasion. At least once every two years bloodshed breaks out and Christians fight with Muslims and many die.
Not just die. But slaughtered to death.
Women are raped. Children stolen. And, people are hacked to death with machetes and burned in tires via the most barbaric of ways.
In The Philippines most of the population is Catholic. In Mindanao, there is a minority Islamic population. History tells of Arab traders coming into Asia, through Malaysia up into Indonesia, and into the southern tip of The Philippines.
And yes, once again there is conflict here too.
Islam in The Philippines
I’ve written before about the conflict in Mindanao, so I will not go into it again. I will however write about what I have experienced as a traveler in this region in regards to Islam.
The Muslims I have met here in open markets have been friendly, fun to bargain with, and I’ve never had an issue. I do however, take issue with other people whispering their issues into my ear whenever there is a muslim around.
A segregated religion
“We are not sitting out, the Muslims are out there.”
“The big car, it belongs to the Muslim.”
“Don’t go down that street, it’s full of Muslims.”
“Don’t travel there, it’s full of Muslims.”
And, so on it goes. I’ve never heard so many people condemn, warn and speak badly about people of Islamic faith as what happens in Mindanao.
Truth be told .. maybe they are right?
When I tell them it is not true, they point to the facts. The Muslim has the big car, there are Islamic neighborhoods, and yes people do sit in groups together.
I have seen Muslim arrogance and wealth in Mindanao, but no more so than any other person of another faith in the rest of The Philippines.
Islam’s mean face in The Philippines
I’d be pretty unsociable too if I knew everyone was talking about me and pointing blame on me. I’d probably want to sit with others like me just to get away from it all.
Mix that in with politics, money and the want for autonomy and you have a hot bed of fiery emotions that just won’t go away.
Face to face with yet another Islam
I decided one day to walk into a mosque in Mindanao. The first day I was stopped by a hotel receptionist who made such a fuss about my safety I promised that I would not go, that day. Instead, I went the next.
The mosque itself was run down. I kept my camera in its bag until I could meet with someone. The prayer area had a few people sleeping there. And, a few others talking.
I was watched like a hawk as I prowled around looking for an office. Finally seeing that none was occupied, I went over to the prayer area and waved at the men having a meeting.
A group of men came over and our conversation about who why what and where began.
“Are you journalist?”
Was the number one question that kept being repeated. Considering not so far from here 50+ journalists were killed last year. I aired on the negative. I was shown around, but kept close and looked up and down as if they did not know what to do with me.
We visited the various offices and the conversation never left the subject of me. Until …
“You need to leave before it’s too late …”
The man spoke in a hushed and favored voice.
“It’s dangerous for you here, not everyone think the same.”
And, so my guided tour had led me out to the street. Where I was given a list of precautions of never coming back, and not to travel any further here. The reason, they don’t understand. And, you are nothing more than a dollar sign.
The link between Christian and Islamic differences in The Philippines
Much like my article about Christianity and Catholicism causing problems in the history of The Philippines, the answer I believe comes from a lack of education, and of course, the fight for power that will ultimately deliver the speculated education for their people.
Preach all day about what you have been taught, but if you cannot understand the reasoning for it, then the trouble starts. No matter the religion.
Education is not all about memorizing quotes
The key words this man spoke were:
“not everyone think the same.”
This to me is the cause of many a religious conflict. None of us think the same. But if we are following a moral, religious, or political law. Then surely in this instance, we should be. At least in terms of moral values.
Key differences I’ve noticed with religion in regions of the world
The closer you get to its most centralized following, the more it comes across as a way of life. The further outreaches of religion seem to be more about a cause.
The latter are often problem areas too.
I can walk down a street in Iran or Pakistan and enter a mosque with a camera and no one will object (permissions aside). If I did the same in West Africa or The Philippines, I am all of a sudden breaking every rule there is.
Strangely, the same happened with the Buddhist temple in Davao. Lot’s of rules and different interpretations than in Tibet, Nepal, or even China.
On the flip side of things. The Armenian church in Iran, seemed to cast its own rules that differ from other churches in Europe when I was traveling there.
So, from my experience over the past 6 years of travel in these regions, there is indeed a trend.
Islam in The Philippines is no different to any other isolated religion
So that’s my conclusion to Islam in the Philippines. It’s in a remote area. It’s dominated by another religious population. It’s far from its central institution, yet near another dominating Islamic nations (Indonesia / Malaysia).
Like many other religions this seems to cause a fracturing from a way of life; to becoming a cause.
The sad thing is that Islam, Christianity and most other religions all basically teach the same thing. Yet, somehow since the beginning of religion it’s led to unholy conflict, prejudice, hate and death.
Why speak ill will of someone who believes the same thing you do?
Mix in politics, and you are doomed. Separate politics and follow the basic principles of your religion; and, there’s hope.
So far in the history of humanity we have failed to get this right.
Sitting and waiting
This holiday season many countries are on high alert for terrorists. We will watch the news as a disaster occurs somewhere on our overheating blue planet.
We are paranoid, we avoid thinking of what’s happening out there via one-sided new sources; we close our doors and lock them tight.
I see a man collecting garbage on the street. I don’t care about his religion. I just know he is hungry …
Planning on booking a hotel room in The Philippines?
Here are the best online rates guaranteed!
I recommend you try my own hotel search for The Philippines.
Just before the 25th – My top 3 best & worst list of foods in The Philippines – a lighter topic!
My last journal entry from The Philippines … where is the best place to spend it …
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