07/25/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Muslims of Mindanao against those who threatened the bishop of Basilan

A statement from Silsilah and other Muslim groups calls "imposters" the self-appointed mujahidin who threatened Bishop Jumoad, demanding that he convert or pay the Islamic tax.

Manila (AsiaNews) - They are "imposters" who violate true Islam, those who threatened the bishop and the Catholics of Basilan, in the Philippines. This is the strong reaction from Silsilah, a movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue based in Mindanao, and from other Muslim groups, to the message in which it is claimed that by living in Muslim territory, Bishop Martin Jumoad must convert or pay the jizya, the tax established during the Ottoman Empire that guaranteed non-Muslims the right to practice their faith, and assured their protection.

The letter, which the bishop received open last Friday, and a copy of which was made available to the Filipino press, was signed by Paruji Indama and Nur Hassan J. Kallitut, who claim to be mujahidin. In it, they give the bishop fifteen days to reply, otherwise "we will consider you our enemies". The bishop says it is not the first threat he has received, and demonstrates a dangerous tendency in the area - part of the region of Mindanao, where Muslims are 70% of the inhabitants - where the situation is getting "out of control".

"It is very sad", reads the statement from Silsilah (the president of which is Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), "that some people, who want to give a wrong impression of Islam, simply select a few words from the Qur'an and distort them and put them in the wrong context, all in order to prove that Islam supports violence and evil motive". "For how long", continues the statement, "shall we endure the pain and the distortion being committed in our midst? The time has come for the Muslim majority who are silent to be vocal and vigilant, to face those impostors and not to allow them anymore to desecrate the holy name of Islam".

After recalling that Mohammed rejected the use of violence to impose religion, and called for respect for believers, the document calls upon Muslims and the faithful of other religions to "unite to confront the forces of evil that once again threaten our peaceful coexistence".

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