Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Muslims Celebrate Eid As Fighting Rage In Mindanao

Muslim women look out from the Capitol building in the southern Philippine province of Sulu on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008 as they celebrate the Eid Al Fitr. Governor Sakur Tan led the celebration of the Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2008) – Muslims in the southern Philippine island of Sulu on Tuesday celebrated the Eid al Fitr, which marked the end of the holy Ramadan, Islam’s fasting month.

More than 3,000 people gathered outside the Capitol building in Patikul town, one of several areas of prayer congregations, and listened to mufti as they preached and told Muslims to religiously follow the teachings of the holy Koran.

Sulu Governor Hajji Sakur Tan, clad in his traditional white skull cap and robe, led devout Muslims throughout the one hour prayer.

“The fasting month of Ramadan is very important to us because it cleanses our hearts and mind and reflects on the past. Without God in our heart and mind, we are nothing, and the Eid Al Fitr is the time for us to thank God for the blessings we received in life and this is also the time to share. There is always God and love in our hearts,” he said.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. And at the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous three-day celebration called Eid Al-Fitr of the Festival of Fast-Breaking.

Eid Al-Fitr is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.

But while Sulu celebrates the Eid Al Fitr, fighting was raging in Mindanao between government soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said government troops shelled rebel position in the villages of Pagatian and Matia in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, one of six provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, one of the most restive in the southern Philippines.

“Troops attacked our positions with artilleries and they also torched civilian houses in the villages,” Kabalu said.

But Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, denied the MILF reports and said rebels were targeting government soldiers in the province. “As a matter of fact, the MILF ambushed our troops on Monday in Datu Piang and this triggered fighting in the area that left a still undetermined number of rebel casualties,” he said.

Sporadic fighting since last month have left more than 300 soldiers and rebels dead, according to both the MILF and the Philippine military. Clashes broke out after rebel forces mounted a series of deadly attacks across Mindanao after the aborted signing of the Muslim homeland deal on August 5.

Because of the attacks, President Gloria Arroyo suspended the peace talks with the MILF and scrapped the territorial deal and she also disbanded the government team negotiating with the rebel group.

The MILF blamed Arroyo for the collapse of the peace talks and warned of a bigger war if Manila continues with its offensive in Mindanao.

Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, said it will still support the peace process in Mindanao and so is the influential Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the United States, including Libya, Brunei and Japan which have deployed truce observers in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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