MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — A bishop in the southern Philippines reported receiving a letter threatening him with harm if he does not convert to Islam or pay “Islamic taxes.”
Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela also told the Asian church news agency UCA News that he got text messages from Catholics saying they, too, had received threatening letters.
Bishop Jumoad said a student of Claret College in Isabela, the capital of Basilan province, was told to give the school secretary the letter to pass to the bishop.
The bishop sent a copy of the letter July 19 to church-run Radio Veritas in Quezon City, northeast of Manila.
The letter had the names “Puruji Indama” and “Nur Hassan J. Kallitut” printed at the bottom and “mujahedin” under each name. The purported senders introduced themselves as “Muslim warriors” who “don’t follow any laws other than the Quran,” Islam’s holy book.
They said Bishop Jumoad should choose to convert to Islam or give “jizya,” Islamic tax, to their group in exchange for protecting him in the “place of Muslims.”
If he refuses to convert or pay, the letter threatened “force, weapons or war may be used” against him. It warned him not to feel safe even if he is “surrounded by soldiers” and cited bombings in various cities.
Bishop Jumoad was given 15 days to respond, with two mobile phone numbers to contact.
“If we do not receive response from you, it means you will oppose,” the letter added.
A document written in the local dialect on the letterhead of “Al-Harakatul Islamiyya” accompanied the letter. The bishop said he did not recognize the names, but has encountered the phrase “Al-Harakatul” in kidnapping incidents in Basilan involving Abu Sayyaf, a guerrilla group named as a terrorist organization by various countries.
On July 21, CBCP News, the online news site of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, reported the kidnapping of five parishioners of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Sumisip.
St. Vincent Ferrer is among nine parishes of Isabela prelature, which covers all of Basilan, where 96,000 Catholics form 30 percent of the population. Except for the city of Isabela, the rest of the province belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On July 22, provincial administrator Talib A. Barahim told UCA News that no one had reported receiving a ransom demand for the release of the parishioners. He said Gov. Jum Akbar of Basilan, the provincial police director and Basilan mayors met the previous day and planned to make a “citizen’s arrest.”
He added that he was aware of the threatening letters sent to Bishop Jumoad and other Catholics.
In Manila July 21, Hamid Barra, Muslim convener of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, said that according to the teachings of Islam, life is sacred. He recited a verse from the Quran that says whoever kills a person without justification kills all people.
Key words: “Without justification.” What if one refuses the terms of Qur’an 9:29?
The expert on Islamic law also explained that non-Muslims who are protected by an Islamic government are required to pay jizya, which the state uses to support the poor and the needy.
More on revisionist presentations of jizya here.
In a non-Islamic country like the Philippines, “there is no such payment required of non-Muslims,” he said.
But would Barra like the Philippines to become an Islamic country? And how would the proposed autonomy for parts of Mindanao as a Muslim “homeland” work in this regard?