Who are the Moros whom Philippines’ Duterte granted expanded autonomy?

File photo of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (left), receiving the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law from Ghazali Jaafar, vice-chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in July 17, 2017 in Manila. (AP)

Muslim communities living in the archipelago of the Mindanao, Palawan, Solo and other islands of the Philippines are called Moros.

The Moro people, who represent about 11% of the Philippines’ population, converted to Islam in the 14th century, were neglected and prejudged because of their lifestyle. They converted to Islam in the 14th century.

The Moro, also called the Bangsamoro or Bangsa Moro, represent the second religious group after the Catholic Christians in the Philippines. It includes ethnic groups that speak 13 different languages.

The Moro people share the same ethnic and culture origin with the majority of people in the Philippines, and have fought for hundreds of years against the Spanish and American rule.

The Moro people lived in autonomous enclaves but lost their independence when the US colonial administration left them under the Christian administration of Philippines in 1946. Since then the Moro people have resolved to peacefully negotiatiate  to regain their autonomy.

But in the absence of any results out of the political negotiations for granting them autonomy, following attacks against them and attempts at  ethnic cleansing, the Muslim Moros turned to an armed struggle as of 1970 to defend themselves.

Clashes between the Philippines government and the Moro’s Muslims have been going on for four decades now resulting in the death of more than 120,000 people.  More than 2 million have sought refuge in other countries.

Spread of Islam 

The Philippines’ population is more than 10 million and the areas where Moro Muslims live are: Maguindana, Lanao del Sur, Solo, Tawi and Basilan.

The word “morro” is derived from the word “mor” (morocco) and comes from the word “mauru”, which was once used to refer to the inhabitants of Mauritania in northeastern Africa during the Roman period. These regions are currently in between Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco.

Islam spread in the Philippines through traders coming from the Arabian Peninsula. Later it spread in the southern Philippines through visitors, and traders who married local residents.

According to historians, one of the first Muslims to visit the Sulu Archipelago in 1280 AD, marry and form a Muslim community was Tuan Masha’ika.

After Masha’ika, Muslim Karim al-Makhdoum had a great role in spreading Islam in the region after he went there in the 14th century.

Islam spread more widely in the coastal, mountainous and interior regions by mid-15th century, where the Islamic education in the region became institutionalized over time. 

Peace pact 

The “Bangsamoro Basic Law” was the culmination of a peace agreement signed between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front four years ago, during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.

This law, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law and often referred to by the acronym “BOL” and “BBL”  provides for the establishment of an autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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