QUN FAYA QUN: Reaffirming Cultural Diversity within the Bangsamoro

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Feb) – A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to formulate a cultural plan for the Bangsamoro. This plan will be integrated in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Agenda. For whatever reasons, if this will push through or not, I would like to discuss in this article the concept of why we need to have this.

The creation of the proposed new political entity, Bangsamoro, is a breakthrough in Mindanao. The ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hold out the possibility of peace, a responsive government and a better, more prosperous future for their people of the region. However, a question of who is a Bangsamoro, its culture and identities are crucial in the process of making the region work and more inclusive.

When planning for a development program for a region, province, or a municipality, we tend to assume that ethnic groups are monolithic and have rather homogenous needs and characteristics. However, the Bangsamoro communities are ethnic groups with diverse, complex, and changing entities.

To draft a peace and development plan, programs must recognize and reflect the complexities and diverse ethnic identities and characteristics of the Islamized indigenous peoples, non Islamized, and Christian communities within the Bangsamoro.

To reflect the myriad, diverse, and emerging ethnic identities of Bangsamoro peoples, we must make some attempt to identify them and to describe their culture and identity and to describe its implications in peace and development.

The Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) includes key points on power sharing, wealth sharing, and the process of normalization. These Annexes will form part of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Thus, it has to be inclusive to all the people and stakeholders of the region.

There are some questions we need to address. The question of nationalism and national identity is embedded in the broad context of Philippine history.

The 13 Islamized ethnolinguistic groups should be seen, not as a closed system or a finished product, but as a dynamic and unfolding process. As Kroeber has perceptively remarked, what is characteristic of any civilization is not its being but its becoming (Quoted in N.K. Bose. Society and Culture in India, p. 289; A.L. Kroeber: An Anthropologist looks at History, California, 1963, pp. 4-5).

By virtue of its characteristic which is similar to Indonesia, pluralism and its continuously evolving synthesis, Bangsamoro represents a distinct “nation in the making” within the Philippine state.

Thus, we asked, “What view is reflected in Bangsamoro culture and identity as a matter of feeling, a dream, a vision, and an emotion?”

With these thoughts in mind, we can read in the Holy Quran a chapter that guides every Muslim believer of how important culture and character of a person because this defines our identity.

Surat Al-Hujurat is the 49th surah of the Qur’an with 18 ayat. It addresses the Muslim identity, preaching the code of conduct to be followed by a Muslim in his or her life; it emphasizes what kind of attitude a Muslim must have towards other people and to recognize pluralism and multiculturalism of all mankind. The verse that specifically discuses this is as follows:

Verse 13:

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

With the of creation of the Bangsamoro political entity, communities in the region are facing new and more powerful challenges to their culture and identity survival. Globalization of Islam and the dominance of the strong Muslim ethno linguistic groups such as the Tausugs, Maguindanaons, and Maranaws, threaten the traditional and cultural practices of the minorities within the region. Thus, it may also be more difficult for communities to plan for the future because of the mobility of capital and labor.

In many respects, the Bangsamoro new political entity reflects a new stage in the process by which the Moro and IP communities have become integrated into the regional society and economy for the following years.

With the release of “Power Sharing,” the third annex to the Framework agreement on Bangsamoro, there is a need to identify and understand the culture and identity of the Bangsamoro peoples.

The foundation for the assertion of right to self determination (RSD) of Bangsamoro peoples is the protection of their culture and identity within their ancestral territory – land.

Culture is a shared set of beliefs, practices, and values that often result from shared experience or heritage that is passed from one parent to their children.

I am not sure if the Bangsamoro Development Agency is open to this line of thinking. I am not really sure if they are indeed true to their words that they are inclusive. But at any rate, with or without them, we will have this study. We will convene local experts of Muslim cultures in the region. This is a commitment that led me to work in an academic institution like the Ateneo de Davao University.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Qun Faya Qun means “‘Be! and it is”. When Allah (subhanwatala) thinks of anything that He wants to create, He just says Qun Faya Qun and the things come into existence. Mussolini Lidasan, an Iranun from Maguindanao, is executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, based at the Ateneo de Davao University where he is also pursuing his MA Anthropology. For questions/feedback please email: [email protected]]