I spoke a few days ago at the University of Wisconsin in Madison — three times, in fact — and after the second talk a gentleman came up to me and posited that all the conflicts between Islamic and non-Islamic forces around the world can be explained in terms of local political and socioeconomic factors, and that if what I was saying was true about the religious motivations of the Islamic forces, one would expect to see at least some conflicts, or even one, proceeding along religious grounds only without these political and socioeconomic factors present.
I answered by explaining that there is no distinction between the sacred and secular in traditional Islam, such that the religious and the political are not so easily separated in the Islamic world, and by explaining that defensive jihad, which is the only kind of jihad that can be waged legitimately today according to the classic canons of Islamic law, became an obligation on every Muslim when a Muslim land was attacked — hence the need to point to such pretexts.
If I had been thinking on my feet I might also have noted the phenomenon that presents itself again in this story — the movement of jihadists from one country to another. If the struggles against Israel and the Philippines were merely two discrete nationalistic conflicts, why would anyone travel from one to fight in the other? The religious linkage is the only thing that explains the international travels of jihadists.
From AFP (thanks to Sr. Soph):
MANILA – Authorities arrested a former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) member in the southern Philippines, a report said Saturday, amid suspicions he was involved with local Islamic militants.
Immigration, police and military personnel arrested Yussof Umar Animour, 41, also known as Yusop Omar, in the town of Sibalu in the southernmost islands of Tawi-Tawi on November 1 for illegally staying in the country, an Immigration Bureau report said.
However sources in the intelligence community believe he has ties with local Muslim militants who have battled the government.
Intelligence reports say that in 2000 he was spotted in a Philippine camp with insurgents of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) while the military was launching an assault against the group.
It was unclear what he was doing in the Philippines at the time of his arrest.
Omar was as a communications specialist with the PLO in Lebanon from 1982 to 1984, then went to Manila to study in 1986. However schools rejected his application because he did not have a student visa, the bureau report said.