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Volume 3,  Number 27              August 10 - 16, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Salamat Hashim: Planting the Seeds of Jihad

More than any other Moro leader, Salamat Hashim reawakened the Islamic consciousness of the Moro people. He made them proud of their identity. He gave them a vision.

Bulatlat.com Mindanao Bureau

DAVAO CITY – In the end, no amount of demonization by the Arroyo regime could obscure the greatness of Salamat Hashim. His people poured out their respect and admiration. Fellow revolutionaries hailed his steadfastness and loyalty to the revolution. Even government functionaries admitted, either grudgingly or hypocritically, that he had been a worthy adversary.

Not bad for a Moro leader who, only three months ago, was roundly labeled and disparaged by the government as a terrorist.

Salamat Hashim: 'Visionary and realist'

Taking over as the new MILF chairman is Al Haj Murad who has also headed the Front’s military component, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

Hashim, who died of natural causes on July 13 at age 61, had been the reclusive chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He rarely gave interviews or made public appearances. But his presence in Moro society was always palpable.

Newly-elected chairman, Al Haj Murad

“More than any other Moro leader, Hashim reawakened the Islamic consciousness of the people. He made us proud of our identity. He gave us a vision,” said Moner Bajunaid, an Islamic scholar who had been a member of the MILF’s negotiating panel. And Hashim stuck with that vision through the end.  

Pragmatic leader

Born in 1942 to an upper middle-class family in Maguindanao, Hashim was educated in Islamic studies and philosophy in Egypt. It was there that he became politicized, ending up forming, along with Nur Misuari, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Both also came from the same career they chose to lead before they went full-time as revolutionaries: Hashim as a teacher and Misuari, who taught political science at the University of the Philippines.

While Hashim was deeply religious, he was also pragmatic. When, in 1976, the MNLF was negotiating with the Marcos regime, Hashim had reservations. That year, Misuari signed the Tripoli Agreement drafted by the Marcos regime. By signing the agreement, Misuari basically allowed the subordination of the Moro revolution by the Philippine Constitution, which was what the Moro revolutionaries were rebelling against to begin with. Hashim thought signing the agreement was foolish.

When interviewed by journalist Carolyn Arguillas in April 2000, Hashim expounded on his differences with Misuari: “I did not like the idea of negotiating within the framework of Constitution. I said once we agree, we can't move anymore because whatever we say, government will just say it's against the Constitution. Another thing was I did not like the idea of the Tripoli Agreement (because) if we look at the territory covered by the Tripoli Agreement, it was not practical because it covers areas now no longer dominated by the native inhabitants/Bangsamoro so I believed it was not practical. It covered Davao. Davao was no longer dominated by the Bangsamoro." Hashim told Arguillas that he wanted to cover "only the territories/areas where the Bangsamoro people were still a majority."

Two years later, Hashim, along with like-minded revolutionaries, broke away from the MNLF, the first Muslim separatist organization, to form a group that later came to be known as the MILF. Misuari went on to deal with the government, signing in 1996 the so-called Final Peace Agreement that, ironically, spelled the doom of Misuari and boosted the MILF.

After Hashim’s death, Arguillas wrote: “The course of history could have changed had Hashim's point been considered. But he was outvoted. Misuari's idea prevailed, he recalled, because ‘majority of those who were around in Tripoli were his friends.’ If his suggestion had been followed in 1976, ‘something could have been achieved.’” Misuari is now in prison, after allegedly leading an uprising in southern Philippines early last year.

Searching for solutions

Although the MILF hews closely to Islamic principles, it nevertheless wants nothing less than a separate Islamic state for the Moros. “Give us back the freedom and independence, which were forcibly usurped from our people, and there will be just and lasting peace in Mindanao. It is as simple as that,” Hashim said in an interview with an Islamic publication 2001.

And if attaining a separate Islamic state requires considering options other than armed struggle, Hashim and the MILF seemed to be saying, so be it.

Indeed, the MILF wants the United States and the United Nations (UN) to be involved in the search for a solution to the three-decades-old conflict in Mindanao that has killed tens of thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands, mostly Muslim civilians. Hashim was likewise convinced of this strategy.

 “He felt that the help of the United States was needed because the Philippine government has not lived up to its promises,” said Bajunaid.

Although Hashim, like other Islamic religious leaders, loathed “decadent” Western ways and culture, “he was not anti-American per se. He welcomed the help – not intervention – of the United States. He wanted somebody that can guarantee the success of the peace process,” Bajunaid said.

Last month, the American ambassador to the Philippines, Francis Ricciardone, disclosed that the United States Institute of Peace, which was created by the U.S. Congress in 1984, would be an observer in the coming peace negotiations to be held in Malaysia. The Bush administration, through the USAID, has also pledged $30 million, to be used for livelihood projects for MILF guerrillas once an agreement is signed.

Hashim also wanted a UN-sponsored referendum in Mindanao to settle the issue of a separate Islamic state. He and most Filipino Muslims were always convinced that Mindanao was never colonized by the Spaniards, who came to the Philippines in the 1500s. To them, the trouble in Mindanao started only in the late 1800s, after Spain ceded the Philippines – including the Muslim sultanates it had not conquered – to the U.S. for $20 million. As a result, the Muslims rebelled and the Americans responded by launching a brutal pacification campaign.

Revolutionary alliance

At the same time, however, the MILF forged an alliance with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 1999, with the formal documents signed by the two parties in Camp Abubakar on July 24 that year.

This alliance continues to this day. On August 5, the NDFP, in an unprecedented statement signed by six NDFP leaders in Mindanao, called Hashim a “true leader” and a “comrade” who “stood firm for the revolutionary struggle of the Moro people’s right to self-determination. When the MNLF abandoned the armed struggle, the MILF under Comrade Hashim persevered with the armed struggle to liberate the Moro people.”

In behalf of the NDFP National Executive Committee, NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni saluted Hashim, noting his “broad and farsighted revolutionary vision in building mutually beneficial cooperative relations between the MILF-BIAF and the CPP-NDFP-NPA.”

“This revolutionary alliance established and formalized under his leadership is of great strategic significance for the continued advance and eventual victory of the revolutionary struggles of the Moro people and the entire Filipino people,” said Jalandoni. 

To Jalandoni, Hashim was “so totally committed to the Moro people's struggle that, even when he was seriously ill, he refused to be brought to a hospital and risk being captured by the enemy. He always had the interest of the Moro people at heart.”

In his statement, Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, Communist Party spokesman, also spoke of the “fruitful revolutionary alliance” which he said started way back in 1980s although formalized only in 1999.

Passion for freedom

Datu Cosain Naga, spokesperson of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance, had this to say of Hashim: “The death of Mr. Salamat Hashim, a great and praiseworthy leader of the Bangsamoro people, is indeed a great loss to their struggle for self-determination. Despite his firm belief in the armed revolutionary struggle as the only solution to the Moro peoples’ quest for genuine freedom, he has shown sincerity in pursuing their goal through peaceful means by participating earnestly in the peace negotiations.”

Naga said Hashim’s leadership “should be duly credited for his firm resolve not to surrender arms, as demanded by the government, unless a tangible result of the peace talks is assured. Through this, he has genuinely upheld the interests of the Bangsamoro people.”

Call it political savvy but it was clear Hashim and the MILF learned a thing or two from the failure of the MNLF. It was perhaps in this context that Orlando Quevedo, the archbishop of Cotabato and the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), called Hashim, in a report by MindaNews, "not only a visionary but a realist."

Abhoud Syed Lingga, chairman of the non-government Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly, said Hashim “had a simple passion in life: freedom.”

It is this “passionate yearning for freedom that compelled him to stay with the oppressed, share their sufferings, and court death in the hands of the oppressors and enemies of peace. Many times he was offered the security and comfort of a sanctuary in friendly Muslim countries. But he gracefully spurned these offers, preferring instead to live with the impoverished Bangsamoro masses, seek refuge and comfort in prayers to his Creator, and patiently endure the spartan life of a mujahid in the harsh jungles, mountains and marshes of the Bangsamoro homeland.”

In short, Hashim was a revolutionary to the very end – and, perhaps, beyond. It is said that Hashim once uttered these words: “Even if I die, the next generation will continue the struggle. I have planted the seed of jihad in the heart of the Bangsamoro.” Bulatlat.com Mindanao Bureau

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