October 11, 2004


Philippine rebels strained by radical Islam (Stuart Grudgings, 210/10/04, Reuters)

Shows of unity are more important than ever for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it returns to peace talks with the government after a three-year break and tries to shake off allegations that its camps are a training ground for militants.

But deepening divisions within the MILF between moderates and Middle-East influenced radicals could turn out to be one of the biggest obstacles to ending the 30-year-old conflict.

The risk is that the MILF may splinter if its leadership signs a peace deal that falls short of the long-cherished goal of independence for Muslim-majority areas, leaving southern Mindanao island stuck in conflict and poverty.

"I think the MILF is having a lot of trouble in their own ranks," said Zachary Abuza, a professor at Boston's Simmons College and an expert on the Mindanao conflict.

"There's growing radicalism within the MILF that's scaring the older generation. At the same time the general population -- their constituency -- is getting really war-weary."

Division in the MILF helps explain why it has found it so difficult to address international concerns about its links with militant groups such as Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiah.

Analysts say individual commanders may have kept links with the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for a string of attacks in Southeast Asia, including the 2002 bombings of nightclubs on Indonesia's Bali island, without the leadership's permission.

Al Qaeda wants to unify Islam against the West and they're splitting even the whackjob wing apart instead?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2004 8:18 PM

How can any group called MILF expect to be taken seriously?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 12, 2004 5:47 AM

I was interested to read, last night, how the son of a Moro chief presented Adm. Nimitz his father's kris after 1945 (Nimitz as a young officer had known the father around 1906) in gratitude for Nimitz's work in freeing the Moros from the Japanese.

The significance of this little incident, I believe, is that Islam is centripetal. It always turns inward, always away from the world and especially away from freedom and democracy.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 12, 2004 12:29 PM

Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Israel, France, Morocco, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, America....

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 1:37 PM

An impressive list, but many of those nations have yet to prove that they can manage genuinely democratic governments and societies, and in some of the others, Muslims are a distinct minority, and thus can simply take advantage of participating in political systems maintained by others.
One is a monarchy, the antithesis of democracy.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 12, 2004 4:43 PM

Wake me when Germany and France prove that they can "manage genuinely democratic governments and societies"

Monarchy and democracy are perfectly compatible, as witness several hundred years of British history.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2004 5:00 PM

Ceremonial monarchy.

Islam's problem isn't kings but priests

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 12, 2004 9:31 PM