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Islam in the Philippines

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The faith was first brought over by Arab traders in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Around 200 years before Spanish explorers first introduced Christianity to the 7,107 Islands.

These Muslim merchants came from present-day Malaysia and Indonesia to the Sulu Islands and Mindanao in the Philippines.

At the time The inhabitants lived in autonomous small communities spread around the many thousands of Islands.

The Merchant Arab’s quickly converted the indigenous population to Islam, building the Philippines’ first mosque in the town of Simunul in the 1400’s

The Muslim settlers didn’t just bring architecture, but also brought their culture and values.

The first official Sultan of Sulu was an Arab from Sumatra named Abu Bakr, who crowned himself around 1450.

50 years later, and Muslim influence rapidly ascended northward up the series of islands reaching as far as the current capital of Manila on the island of Luzon.

In fact, when the Spanish first arrived in the mid-1500s, they were dismayed to encounter such a strong Muslim presence!

The Spanish nicknamed the Philippines’ Muslim inhabitants the Moros, a corruption of the word Moors.

The Spanish quickly converted much of the Philippines to Christianity, using the sword quite liberally.

Spain was struggling to push south as the ‘Moros’ Fiercely resisted the Spanish attempts on dominance over Sulu and Mindanaoin.

During the 1800’s the Sultan of Sulu signed a peace treaty with the invading enemy, as advancing technology favoured the Spanish.

However locals resistance to this matter still cropped up on occasion.

he United States took control of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The Moros viewed the new colonialists as no less objectionable than the Spanish, and they fiercely resisted attempts to westernize Mindanao in particular

The latest wave of Muslim separatism in the nation’s south began in the 1970s.

Since the country became independent, the Filipino government has encouraged non-Muslims to move to Mindanao and other impoverished locations in the south.

The Muslims view this policy as designed to de-Islamize the region and believe that the Christians treat them like second-class citizens.


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