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COMMENTARY: A Tausug Voice on Orlando and Jolo

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/18 June) — Barely a week into the fasting month of Ramadan, our peaceful introspection and prayerful reveries were shattered by newsfeeds on the gruesome mayhem wreaked by a 29 -ear old Omar Mateen, turned by online violent extremist propaganda into a bigoted slayer of innocents. The senseless carnage in Orlando, Florida claimed the lives of 50, injured 53 with countless others forever maimed in mind and spirit.

Before we could even draw our collective breaths and recover from the horrific accounts, grim reports from Jolo, Sulu tear apart any tenuous hope of reprieve from an already abysmal day. Instead, we are further devastated by news bulletins of the grisly execution of a Canadian hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group, a barbaric gang of criminals whose raison d’etre is to profit from the misery of hapless victims forcibly abducted and held in captivity in Sulu.

Two dreadful incidents occurring oceans apart in two continents have left us scarred from the depravity of these misanthropes, acting solo in one site,  in cabal in the other.

We are stunned by the perpetrators’ rapacious capacity for mindless brutality, our weary souls forever burdened by the fact that these callous display of men’s inhumanity to their fellow men could ever happen in this day and age.

We are appalled by the ease in which the tenets of Islam have been perverted by radical extremists to suit their hegemonistic desires. Majority of the Muslim umma are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens of their respective communities. And yet, we brace ourselves to face the inevitable backlash – suspicion, hostility and the deepening bias against Muslims. This is a bitter lesson taught by Mamasapano.

The Dalai Lama cautioned against tarring all Muslims as potential terrorists, saying that Islam is a religion of peace.

As one of the world’s major religions, Islam has a multitude of followers. The sins of the aberrant few should not damn the millions of Muslim pious believers.

Certainly, these sociopaths cannot call themselves Muslims. Their ruthless disregard of human life is not tolerated by Islam, nor by any religion for that matter. We join all peace and human rights advocates in condemning these abhorrent criminal acts. We strongly repudiate those who justify the murder of innocents for the sake of their faith.

While we remain steadfast in our faith, it is incumbent upon all Muslims to regain the discourse from the warped interpreters who violate all the tenets of Islam, and who should be revealed for what they really are…. as amoral, blood-thirsty men without any semblance of faith or humanity.

We empathize with the families of the victims. To them, we will offer our prayers.

We may never know the depth of their grief –for any loss of life is immeasurable. I hope they gain solace in knowing that their loved ones are in a far better place. May I offer these verses, from Mary Elizabeth Frye, to ease their pain.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Let us honor the victims by continuing our fight against violence, intolerance, bigotry and oppression, and remain vigilant over violations of human rights. Let us help build local communities’ resiliency against violent extremism by creating environments where tolerance and harmonious co-existence could thrive and flourish, and where peace is valued and preserved.

Ramadan Kareem.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MidnaNews. Lawyer Salma Pir Rasul is the Programs Director of the Philippine Center for Islam and Development, and the Director for Islamic Legal Studies at the University of the Philippines Law Center).

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