Abu bandits threaten Catholics in Basilan

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A MINDANAO bishop yesterday said Catholics in Basilan could no longer sleep soundly at night after getting threatening letters from the dreaded Abu Sayyaf. Isabela, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said he received a letter with threat similar to what other Catholics in the area received days ago.

“Some Catholic residents have sent me text messages saying they’re disoriented and can no longer sleep soundly at night. I told them I can endure the pain of having no food for days than to spend sleepless nights thinking of the threats. That I cannot take,” he said.

Jumaod said he received the letter Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and has scheduled a meeting with his clergy and the religious in the prelature to talk about the threats.

The letter purportedly came from some members of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf mujahideens who said Basilan belongs to the Muslims who adhere to the provisions of the Quran.

“The Quran provides that non-Muslims who stay in Muslim areas should convert or pay jizya or Islamic tax and failing to do so would mean armed struggle,” the letter said.

The letter writers gave non-Muslims three options, conversion to Islam, pay Islamic tax or prepare for armed struggle.

The same letter said should non-Muslims opt to pay Islamic tax, non-Muslims would no longer be harmed.

“Don’t ever feel safe having soldiers around you because we have made our presence felt in Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga and Metro Manila,” the group claimed.

They gave Bishop Jumoad and other non-Muslims 15 days to comply with their demands.

In a related development, the Islamic Council condemned the threats to Catholics in Basilan.

Professor Tajah Basman, president of the Philippine Islamic Council, condemned the threats on the bishop, the clergy and the Catholic faithful in Basilan province.

“We find the letter funny and bizarre because even the Muslim leaders in Saudia Arabia, Brunei, Egypt, Malaysia, etc. don’t impose jizya (tax) or ask OFWs to convert to Islam. Religious freedom is the rule of Islam and Muslims must not deviate from the true teachings of Islam,” he said.

Basman stressed that the situation in Basilan is a police matter, which must not affect the good relations among Filipinos.

“Prophet Mohammad sent letters when he was Head of the Caliphate of Islam. The Basilan letter senders are not even Barangay kagawads or Mayor so they don’t have any authority to impose anything to the bishop and the Christians anywhere,” he explained.