Autonomous sharia state to be established in southern Philippines after years of Muslim violence

31 July 2018

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The government of the Philippines is to push ahead with the formal creation of a fully-autonomous region in Muslim-dominated Mindanao, which will include allowing elements of sharia (Islamic) law.

President Duterte is expected to sign the Bangsamoro Basic Law later this week. The law, which has been in discussions since 2014, will establish an autonomous region on the southern island of Mindanao. Elements of sharia law are to be incorporated into the justice system.

The Bangsamoro area has a sizeable non-Muslim population. Although it is claimed sharia law elements are expected to only be applicable to Muslims, its incorporation effectively creates an Islamic sub-state within a secular, pluralistic and mainly-Christian country.

The proposal for an autonomous region was included in a peace deal agreed between the government and Muslim rebel groups in 2013, but its implementation has been delayed by successive governments.

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insurgency group in Mindanao
Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insurgency group in Mindanao
Keith Bacongco / CC BY 2.0

Mindanao Christians objected to a previous agreement in 2008 which proposed an autonomous region with sharia law. The Philippines’ Supreme Court later ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional. Muslim armed groups responded with violence against Christians, killing some and displacing large numbers of others.

In May 2017, the Maute Islamist group seized the city of Marawi on Mindanao and murdered Christians and destroyed churches.

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