Islam on My Mind

I have always been fascinated with Islam, this richly colorful and grossly misunderstood religion and culture that has formed a large part of our history and identity as a nation.

Growing up, I often found myself wondering about the veiled women that I would see on TV and in the streets, and our yayas’ and neighbors’ derogatory remarks about “the Muslims”, wondering what was so bad about this group of people that they (and “the Bombays”) were often used to scare us into obedience. When I would see images of mosques and Islamic architecture on TV and in the encyclopedias that kept me company as a child (yes, kids—we had those at home), I would stare at them in awe, thinking about the kind of work that went into them and the architectural genius that it took to create such intricate details. Shifting my attention between Islam and Buddhism, I would ask my mom why kids couldn’t choose their religions and had even asked, ever so innocently, if it were possible to choose my own religion once I was grown up. (In fairness to my mother’s open-mindedness, she didn’t panic when I asked that question and even said “yes” in response.)

I didn’t end up converting to Islam, but the fascination continued on to adulthood. In university, where I had minored in Hispanic Studies, I often found myself daydreaming about Granada, Andalusia, and the Alhambra, telling myself that I would someday visit these enchanting places. To this day, I am enamored of the rhythm and the seemingly rich textures of the Arabic language, enjoying Persian and Arabic music as much as I enjoy flamenco (which was also rooted in the Moorish and gypsy cultures), and wanting, in all earnestness, to learn more about this culture that we in urban Philippines (and many parts of the Westernized world) know so little about.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain | Image by jamesdale10 (www.Flickr.com'HappyTellus.com), under the Creative Commons 2.0 License (By 2.0)
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain | Image by jamesdale10 (www.Flickr.com'HappyTellus.com), under the Creative Commons 2.0 License (By 2.0)

I have even told my husband this: when we have kids, I would want them to grow up alongside Muslim children and live in a more tolerant, understanding world. I am grateful that he agrees, and that he loves their music and culture as much as, or even more than, I do.

* * *

Ibn Battuta, 14th-century Islamic scholar and soujourner | Image from TIME.com
Ibn Battuta, 14th-century Islamic scholar and soujourner | Image from TIME.com

It was timely, then, that I caught TIME Magazine’s issue entitled “Travels through Islam,” their annual “summer journey issue” that delved into the life and travels of Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century Islamic scholar and wanderer whom the legendary travel writer Pico Iyer calls “the father of travel writing.” Battuta left his hometown of Tangier (which, incidentally, was the street I grew up in) in Morocco for Mecca in 1325, when he was only 21 years old, but he didn’t stop journeying after Mecca and traveled on to Constantinople, Delhi, and even all the way to China and back, covering as much as he could of what was then known as Dar al-Islam, “the abode of Islam”. Battuta’s travels took him 28 more years, and as Iyer writes in “A Voyager for the Ages”, “he seems to have begun by taking a journey—and then found that the journey had taken him over.”

What struck me about Battuta’s Islamic journey was what was penned here by professor and author Reza Aslan, in the piece “World Wanderer”:

“… for [Battuta] and his contemporaries, Dar al-Islam connoted more than mere geography. It was above all else an ideal, an aspiration, a shared sense of consciousness held by a global collection of like-minded individuals who maintained more or less the same beliefs and practices and who, as such, composed a single, unified, and divine community: the ummah. This is what the pilgrim and the merchant, the warrior and the peasant would have understood as the source of his or her own identity…

“Although the Muslims made up the majority of Dar al-Islam’s population, and while the norms, values and customs of the people aligned with the fundamental precepts of Islam, it was the enormous diversity of the ummah scattered across these lands that so struck Ibn Battuta.”

Aslan calls the diversity within Dar al-Islam the earliest form of globalization as we know it today. To me, this brought on a realization that Islam is far, far richer than what we perceive it to be, with shades and nuances that cannot be simplified or generalized as mass media do today. Reading on, I discovered that Islam, during its Golden Age, was responsible for advancing education, economy, global trade, and culture, in what historian Marshall Hodgson says “came closer than any other medieval society to establishing a common world order of social and even cultural standards.”

It all seemed so glorious then. What happened? Why has the label “Muslim” brought with it too many negative connotations, and why does a society as cultured as this one tolerate, or even encourage, such violence as the world has experienced in the last decade? The rest of the magazine explores how different Islamic countries and communities—from the Muslim community in Granada, Spain, to the young moderates in Turkey, to “radicals” in Kerala, India—are confronting challenges brought on by the push and pull of tradition versus change, in a world crying out for tolerance and peace.

* * *

Here in the Philippines, peace has been as elusive as genuine progress, if not even more so. War in Mindanao has raged on for nearly half a century, with this conflict now known as the second-longest-running conflict in the world, only next to that in Sudan. Last Thursday, shades of hope emerged as President Benigno Aquino III met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, in a move that was both praised and criticized by different sectors of society. My former boss, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, called it a “great leap forward” and a “bold, daring… out of the box move” to finally end conflict in the Philippine South. (Read the full statement here.)

There are many things that I still do not understand about the conflict in the South, just as there are many, MANY things that I do not understand about Islam. But I do know and believe this: regardless of our religion, race, culture, and many other beliefs, there are far more things that unite all human beings than separate us. At the core of many of our conflicts are the need to be recognized and heard, the need to be understood, the need to live and move around freely, the need for our rights to be respected…

Am I being too much of an idealist in thinking that we could someday live and move around in a world that is more understanding and less prejudiced? Maybe so, but I think it would be less human of me to stop hoping.

Niña Terol-Zialcita

Niña Terol-Zialcita is a “Communicator, Connector, idea Curator, and Changemaker” who uses the power of words and ideas to advocate causes and promote the Philippines at its best. She is ProPinoy.net’s Deputy Editor, as well as Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler, the longest-running travel magazine in the Philippines. When she is not writing, blogging, or traveling, Niña is conducting writing workshops with Writer’s Block Philippines, hanging out at art galleries and cafés, and performing poetry with her husband, percussionist and performance artist Paul Zialcita. She is also the author of the book "[r]evolutionaries: The new generation of Filipino youth and youth organizations".

  • It is worth noting that at that time, the cities of Al-Andalus were more tolerant towards both Christians and Jews than were the proto-Spanish city-states to the North. This was of course the height of Muslim civilization which paved the way for the Renaissance in the West later on. Along with that tolerance came prosperity.

    It is also worth noting that it was just one of three Caliphates contesting each other for supremacy at the time. Culturally, the Andalucians were very different from their Middle Eastern brethren, imbibing in wine, music and poetry. Internal divisions within Al-Andalus eventually led to its downfall, but the cultural heritage lives on.

    We inherited our aversion for the people of Islam from the Spaniards who conquered us and gave us the cultural heritage borne out of the Spanish inquisition. Having dispatched the Moors from their Iberian homeland, they rendezvoused with them half-way around the world. It goes to show just how advanced the Moorish people were in their navigational capabilities.

    I think that where many Islamists have lost their way is in thinking that the revival of their civilization requires some “pure form” of Islam based on a misrepresentation of the call to jihad. The height of its cultural and economic powers was actually achieved in Al-Andalus when it was most tolerant and pursued the love of learning.

    Even with the Arab spring, the children of the revolution still struggle to define what it means: fundamentalism or a more secular approach that respects the right of people from other religions? I must say, even if the Philippines does achieve a lasting peace in the south, these tensions will remain.

    • Nina Terol-Zialcita

      Doy, thanks for the points raised. It was good that you brought up the idea of a “pure form.” I think it is when any religion, race, culture, or organization insists on purism or fundamentalism that things start to get twisted out of hand.

      If such cultures were able to achieve periods of tolerance and relative peace in the old days, I don’t see why we shouldn’t strive for that today.

      But you’re right, too, about the struggles of our own brethren in the southern Philippines. Tensions will always remain and will not be resolved that easily, but I suppose: what can help these societies move forward is a larger vision that people can latch on to, and under which certain parties can agree to disagree for the common good.

      Again, I’m an idealist, and unapologetically so. What I believe in might not be the best opinion, but that’s also why we have this space–so we can continue informing each other for the sake of understanding and intelligent (we hope) discourse.

  • Bert

    Why must any woman be thinking of Islam and not be thinking of human rights for women. Just a thought.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Bert,

      Why would any woman remain Catholic when it deprives them of the right to choose and the privilege of becoming priests?

    • Niña Terol-Zialcita

      Bert (and, yes, Winky and UP, too),

      Yes, there have been many, MANY instances of human rights abuse, murder, and crime committed in the name of Islam–just as these have been committed in the name of Christ. Think about our own experience of centuries of oppression, rape, and abuse under the Spanish friars. Different religion, similar stories. It happens all over the world, under many cultures and religions, but that is not the point of this piece.

      Clearly, there are many who read this post who misunderstand what it truly means.

      • Winky

        Ah ok I think I get it now, so it’s my fault that muslims can’t get themselves out of the dark ages. I just looked up a list of muslim majority countries and whoopee doo, there sure are lots of “misunderstood” fellows out there. Must be the dominance of interpretation Manuel was talking about.

        Thanks for the heads-up on Spanish friars. I’ll make sure not to go there, if I ever get my hands on a time machine.

        You know who else gets a bad rap? the poor somali pirates. People should definitely be more tolerant.

        • GabbyD

          winky,

          whats your point? is it: “most/many muslim countries are horrible”?

          i think that point has been conceded. moreover, horrible things happen everywhere. is there anything else u wanna say?

          • Winky

            My point? I guess I’m just tired of the excuses. The poor downtrodden misunderstood muslims. Oh whoa is me for calling a pile of dung, a pile of dung.

        • manuelbuencamino

          Winky,

          Memorize this: All the great religions in the world are good. It’s what some do in the name of their religion that messes things up.

  • manuelbuencamino

    Loved it, Nines

    • Niña Terol-Zialcita

      Thanks, MB. There are many who miss the point of this piece, but that doesn’t mean I will stop believe in what I do, and sharing them.

  • uP nN gRD

    It will be a mistake to say “pareho lang!!!” And equate the carnage caused by that nutcase in Norway to religious intolerance and carnage in many Middle East and South Asian countries. Look even to countries more Christ-focused than Pilipinas and you will not find STATE-sponsored carnage, beheadings, terrorism. This is my perception (but you have the right to state Christianity-mayhem and Muslim-mayhem pareho lang)

    • Up nN gRD

      Quick question…. Are their Muslim nuns. There are Catholic nuns… Saints, even. What about in the Shia or Sunni or Suffi Islam…. Can women be Islam nuns?

      • uP nN gRD

        Winky can write if in SaudArabia or Malaysia, she saw Islam nuns — female Islam religious leaders. But if you see groups of Buddhist women in white robes, pause and entertain another religio with nuns. And Buddhist nuns like carmelites nuns, etc…. Buddhist nuns like white.

        • PuP nN grD

          I forgot if Cupid is male or female, and Santa Claus of course has a missus.

          Now Kali, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati — these are worthy. Goddesses of Hinduism. PresiNoy may want to meet up with a woman who in her youth wanted to be Kali…. Or WonderWoman. Who are Islam female role-models?

      • manuelbuencamino

        If you read muslim history you will see that there were many women imams and ulamas in the past. However, cultural rather than religious barriers have led to a dearth in female religious scholars and leaders in the present time.

        But there is equality between men and women under Islam. What you see now in some Muslim countries is the preponderance of certain interpretations of the Q’uran in the same way that not all Christian countries interpret the Bible in the same way i.e. in the Philippines you see the dominance of the Vatican perspective while in the UK you see a Protestant perspective. Sa madaling salita, there is no monolithic view of the Q’uran as there is no monolithic view of the Bible.

        • Niña Terol-Zialcita

          Hear, hear.

          And like I said in my post, I admit that there is much to learn about any religion or any culture, but it doesn’t mean we should stop hoping for a more tolerant and understanding world.

          • uP nN gRD

            SaHHH–taYHR is…
            Christians interpret the Bible differently, therefore in Islam there is equality between men and women. Coool!!!!

          • manuelbuencamino

            UPn,

            Read the Koran and point out where it says that women are inferior to men.

          • Bert

            Can’t resist this, so, ManuelB, I have to say something, re:your:

            “Read the Koran and point out where it says that women are inferior to men.”

            Surely there are words to that effect in the Koran as there are in the Christian bible, but the Koran is not the Muslims, the Muslims not the Koran, am I wrong?

            I have been to many Muslim countries and personally observed how they treat women, they’re treated as inferior by Muslim men. It could be cultural as you say, but that’s what my view about it.

        • manuelbuencamino

          Bert,

          1. Googled it and found : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_roles_in_Islam

          2. “Surely there are words to that effect in the Koran as there are in the Christian bible, but the Koran is not the Muslims, the Muslims not the Koran, am I wrong?”

          I don’t know but I think you will find it very difficult to have muslims without the Koran in the same way that you can’t have christians without the New Testament.

          3. “I have been to many Muslim countries and personally observed how they treat women, they’re treated as inferior by Muslim men. It could be cultural as you say, but that’s what my view about it.”

          Me too. But I’ve also found that to be true in many Chrisitian countries I’ve visited. Maybe it’s a man thing to act as if they were superior to women who, in fact, have them by the balls.

          • Bert

            :).

    • manuelbuencamino

      Up,

      Have you read the manifesto of the “nutcase”? Why is it that when Christians go crazy they are nutcases but when they are muslim they are religious intolerants?

      I have looked around other Christian countries and I saw Germany where there was STATE-sponsored genocide against Jews. Is the gas chamber less lethal than a beheading?

      And what about the massacre of muslims in Serbia, does not rape and carnage qualify as atrocities inflicted on muslims?

  • Winky

    I think you should just stop wondering about the beauty and magic of Islam and, spend some time in Saudi Arabia. I did and let me tell you, it was a happy place. They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.

    • Winky

      Make sure you come in during ramadan, you’ll have the best time ever.

      • uP nN gRD

        Saudi Arabia will never be a secular state, and a Mindanao that is partitioned away to be governed by a constitution similar to that of Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim states will result in a step backwards in relation to human rights issues. Unbelievably, women of Saudi Arabia are clamoring for the right to drive a car by themselves. And the United Nations still is thwarted on asking Saudi Arabia to allow what Pilipinas has been practicing for decades — temples and churches of other religions to be given building construction permits.

        Such is the world of the new century.

        • I agree. Separatism denigrates the values of the Philippines, which are finally coming into the modern era with respect to rights for women (divorce, HR). I don’t know how it is possible to reconcile that with dark age values.

        • manuelbuencamino

          Try building a mosque in the Vatican.

          • PuP nN gRD

            Mamang Buencamino: Vatican has less than 1,500 citizens, and the area is kapiranggot — less than 1/3 of UP Diliman campus.

            Take a long walk from Vatican city, there are several mosques. And rome MOSQUE can accomodate 12,000. Only uninformed and propagandists will ask for a mosque in VATICAN CITY, mamang Buencamino.

          • manuelbuencamino

            Pup,

            a mosque is not a cathedral. Try building a tiny mosque in the Vatican.

          • PuP Nn gRD

            Kakapiranggot lang ang ispasyo, ang tigas naman ng ulo ni mamang Bemcanino. At marami ng mosques puwedeng lakarin, ano ba naman iginigiit pa.

          • GabbyD

            Actually, try building a mosque near 9/11

          • manuelbuencamino

            PuPpy,

            Okay due to space limitations, my experiment will have to be changed to…try preaching the Koran in St Peter’s Square.

          • UP nn gRD

            si mamang ManuBenKamino naman, you really are nonsensically pushing a slant of propaganda.

            Italy has been asking for a Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia. Saudi says — NO! How many mosques again has Saudi Arabia funded built just in Rome alone?

            England (the largest church Saudi has funded in Europe is in England)…. England has been asking for a Christian Church in Saudi Arabia. Saudi says — NO!

            Pilipinas??? United Nations would be ecstatic if Saudi Arabia will allow more rational treatment in public of other citizens of other religions. Hmmmm… again, I leave it to Winky (or to any other Pinoy or Pinay who has worked in Saudi) to talk about walking with a Bible along the streets of Saudi Arabia.

            Mister Buencamino… take your blinders off, you really should. I dare guess (though she can state otherwise ) that the blogpost-author will NOT buy your propaganda-message that Saudi Arabia is fairly treating the requests from other countries to open churches in Saudi Arabia.

          • manuelbuencamino

            PuPpy,

            Hay naku…ang hirap mong kausap…you are nonsensically pushing your bigotry against Islam and muslims by making Saudi Arabia as the model for all Islam and muslims thereby creating a negative stereotype.

            As to your other point: “I dare guess (though she can state otherwise ) that the blogpost-author will NOT buy your propaganda-message that Saudi Arabia is fairly treating the requests from other countries to open churches in Saudi Arabia.”

            1. You point out where I said that RSA is fairly treating requests from other countries to open in Saudi Arabia.

            2. RSA is a sovereign country and it does not have to accomodate your or anyone else’s religion. Now don’t go misreading what I just wrote as an endorsement of what RSA is doing. I was merely stating the fact that a sovereign nation can do what it wants within its borders unless forced to do so otherwise. Do you think the Christian world should launch a crusade and establish churches in RSA?

            Take your blinders off PuPpy. Heed the advice of Joe and Ninez…there are a lot of beautiful things in and from Islam. Enjoy them. Expand your horizons.

      • manuelbuencamino

        Winky,

        During Ramadan, the muslims are allowed to eat from sundown to sun up. And some of them do. They then sleep through their fast. This I learned from a Swiss stewardness who told me she loved flying to muslim countries during ramadan.

        • Winky

          Have you ever seen a non-muslim guy get hit in the head by police for drinking a soda during ramadan? a non-escorted woman walking in the streets is automatically a whore and subject to arrest.

          • manuelbuencamino

            Winky,

            No, I did it in Malaysia and no one hit me in the head. I even ate pork during ramadan. Like I told you it is the dominance of certain interpretations of Islam and not Islam itself.

    • squeezably tweetunm

      Winky, my sorority sisters and me are superRR-eager. Flip-flops OK? What’s the latest for their dress code?

      • Bert

        burqa.

        • Golden Dictionary award to Bert for best one-word reply of the year.

    • Niña Terol-Zialcita

      I’m sure the world would be a better place without YOUR sarcasm around–THAT I’m sure of!

    • manuelbuencamino

      Winky,

      I’m sure it’s horrible for women in Saudi Arabia. But RSA is not Islam. It is a monarchy that follows Sharia Law as understood by Wahabis. There are muslim countries that are secular like Dubai, Bahrain, Indonesia, Malaysia, Libya, Turkey, Egypt, and others where non-Christians can live as if they were in a non-muslim country.

      It is not right to define Islam in terms of Saudi Arabia. That would be like defining Catholicism in terms of the Philippines.

      • Up nN gRD

        Doing sahHH-taHYR or do you really believe that oen walk with a Bible in hand the streets of ____________?

        And wasn’t there a recent case in Malaysia about getting married Muslim woman to infidel?

        And please… Read those countries’ constitution before proselytizing about them being secular.

        • manuelbuencamino

          Up,

          In France it is illegal for women to wear burqas. Try preaching Islam in one of those American red neck states.

          In short, pare-pareho lang kung bigotry ang pag-uusapan. The post of Nines simply shows that if you open your mind and your eyes, your world will be richer.

      • Winky

        I have only worked in Saudi, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain so please forgive my limited exposure to the wonderful world of islam. What I do know, is that if a female OFW is found to be pregnant and unmarried, they go to jail – and get raped. If a female OFW reports rape, she goes to jail because getting raped is illegal – what a whore right? All it takes is one local to accuse an OFW of being lewd, and they go to jail. A man’s word has twice the weight of a woman’s word in court, awesome eh? Yes this must be all a misunderstanding, I see it now.

        t.

        • manuelbuencamino

          cultural nga

        • manuelbuencamino

          Winky,

          If you hate it so much then why do you keep working in Muslim countries? Go west, young lady!

          • uP nN gRD

            si Mister ManuB naman, may pagka dense.

            Why again are OFW’s in the countries they go to? Of course, there is “… in search of adventure”, and then there is this.

            That GuLO and Erap and FVR and all the presidents Pilipinas can’t seem to get Pilipinas economy cranking away to create jobs for Pinoys-and-Pinas in Pilipinas. “GMA — Talsik Diyan!!! ” Legimate — not enough jobs created under GMA years. And I dare say many OFW’s (and many OFW families here in Pilipinas) are wishing hoping hoping….

            …aba… daang matuwid ay iba nga pala!!!

            Pinoys-in-PInas are waiting, silently (for now) saying….

            P-NOY… ano ba, mayroon ka nga bang ibuguga??? Kaunti namang bilisbilisan … Nasaan ang trabaho????

        • manuelbuencamino

          Winky,

          “If a female OFW reports rape, she goes to jail because getting raped is illegal – what a whore right? All it takes is one local to accuse an OFW of being lewd, and they go to jail. A man’s word has twice the weight of a woman’s word in court, awesome eh? Yes this must be all a misunderstanding, I see it now.”

          Yes I can see it also in the front pages of the New York Times. IMF managing director rapes a hotel maid and she’s a whore because she lied on her asylum application and she talked to man in prison.

          Stay away from countries where you don’t feel safe.

          • Winky

            A hotel maid got raped in New York? oh dear god no! I’ll tell as many OFWs as I can not to go there then.

          • manuelbuencamino

            Winky,

            Good idea. Either that or tell them not to lie in their passport applications and to severe all connections with their convict friends.

          • UP nn gRD

            Actually, ManuB, if you put on a more rational mindset instead of doing propaganda-slanting, big difference between New York rape-case and what Winky states happens in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-countries.

            The accused in New York was arrested immediately and put into house arrest. The STATE (repeat, the state — the authorities) immediately went into action to take action against RAPE. (In contrast, listen well to what Filipina OFW’s state happen in Islam-countries).

            New York City district attorney office had to pull back on the case because of evidentiary rules. The New York victim is flawed as a witness. In contrast, no one as yet has accused of being “flawed-in-character” any Filipina raped in Saudi Arabia or other countries by Islam-authorities .

            But then again, maybe you, mister ManuB, are accusing Filipina OFW’s (of the stories that Winky states) of being flawed in character and deserving of their fate. I hope you are not doing this, but are you???

          • manuelbuencamino

            PuPpy,

            You should always read comments carefully before hitting your keyboard. Here’s what I wrote to Winky : “Yes I can see it also in the front pages of the New York Times.” Because what the NYT reported and what the State did is different. The NYT did a smear job on the victim which is what defendants do in numerous rape cases and not only in muslim countries.

            For your edification read this http://www.counterpunch.org/martens08082011.html

            2. “no one as yet has accused of being “flawed-in-character” any Filipina raped in Saudi Arabia or other countries by Islam-authorities .”

            Did you not read Winky’s complaint?

            3. “But then again, maybe you, mister ManuB, are accusing Filipina OFW’s (of the stories that Winky states) of being flawed in character and deserving of their fate. I hope you are not doing this, but are you???”

            You are a sly SOB for insinuating that I made such an accusation. Talagang utak ng tilapia ka.

  • uP nN gRd

    Joe America making mention of extremism brings back the question of Kato and his command and what the MILF is doing and what GovtRepublicPhilippines of Noynoy Admin hav

    • uP nN gRD

      Kato and many of MILF, when GuLO’s thinking of separatism for Muslim Mindanao, went killing and pillaging. This tells me that a few in MILF expects — well — separation. I won’t be surprised if MILF would call Presi-Noynoy oh-so-Sincere if Presi-Noynoy gets a constitutional amendment to make MoA-Ad legal and done.

      So…. what are among the top 5 things that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim expect to get from Presi-NOynoy Aquino?

      • manuelbuencamino
        • UP nn gRD

          Thanks for that link. Contains useful info but caution dictates that it be read for what the link is (a piece by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben P. Evardone) and for what it is not ( a link to official statements from the MILF…. or even unofficial but informed identification of what the MILF is seeking).

          I repeat this statement — that the MILF would have sang hosannas about GuLO and her leadership if…. if guLO delilvered what she thought she could deliver —- the MoA AD and the separation that moA-AD stands for.

          I have not seen/heard any statements from anywhere (MILF or GRP) that this separation-item (unconstitutional) has been taken off the table. Just my thought.

          Returning to non-romantic view of Islam and Muslim Mindanao…. I think it is fair (since 2016 is not that far away) to ask for caution as opposed to be prematurely clapping one’s hands. PresiNoy being brave and generous to make the MILF happy has scary possibilities.

          To put it bluntly —- I hope whatever PresiNoy causes to happen in 2016 does not wrench Pilipinas apart.

          • UP nN grd

            And I hope MILF does not kind of become unable to rein in “lost patrols” or “lost Buendia bus riders” to coax PresiNoy to be accomodating to their request for “….jurisdiction”.

            In fact, I hope PresiNoy impresses upon MILF that it is to everybody’s benefit for MILF to participate triple-time with regards peace-and-order for all Filipinos (even those atheists who do exhibits at CCP) — bombings and blood on bus floors are damn so very unelegant to express opinions.

  • It seems to me that all religions have their elegant moments, when they are accepting and caring, joyful and spiritual. And their crass moments when they are totalitarian, arrogant and demanding. Or bloody. The latter is usually imposed by an extreme few, but many suffer as a result.

    The Alhambra, for a tourist, reflects the spiritual and architectural joys of the creative Muslim’s refined spirit. I’ve posted my favorite photo of the Alhambra on my web site, thanks to your dream and my recollection. Another memory in my mind is a restaurant on the second floor of crowded downtown Granada, a city that seemed filled with young people and their special vibrancy. The restaurant served the most delicious ham in the world, a delight that is out of bounds for Muslims. And in that symbolism, I see the artificial limits — manmade in God’s name — that keep me away from any organized religion.

    The problem is that each religion does a poor job of policing its own extreme elements, and so it falls to those hurt by unfortunate impositions and biases to defend themselves. And we have the messy condition of the Middle East now. In secular countries like the US, each faith is allowed to prosper in its grace.

    That is why I am for a secular Philippines. It is open, in peace and harmony, to Muslims and Catholics, and many other faiths. And to those of none.

    • Niña Terol-Zialcita

      Thanks for your comment, Joe. I am one with you in hoping (and praying, pun intended) for a secular Philippines. While writing this piece, it also occurred to me that even Christianity–Catholicism, in particular–had its own Golden Age and was also responsible for a lot of the great art, architecture, and cultural advancements that we continue to enjoy today. However, like Islam, it has, in your words, failed to “[police] its own extreme elements,” and what we have now are people who have taken to bigotry and hatred. Another extreme, and recent, example of this was the gruesome massacre in Norway. I’m not sure how much religion had to do with it, but it was surely rooted in intolerance.

      Thanks, too, for sharing that tidbit about Alhambra and the restaurant in Granada! I have yet to fulfill my dreams of visiting those majestic places, and I hope that time comes soon. I would love to see the photos posted on your website.

      Be well!

    • manuelbuencamino

      I agree Joe.

    • Cocoy

      +1, Joe. (I really need to put likes and plus ones here on the comment thread)