Canadian preacher linked to terrorists found in Davao

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A Canadian Islamic preacher linked to international terrorists is detained in Davao City awaiting deportation.

Philippine National Police Region 11 spokesman Police Superintendent Tony Rivera said cops invited Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips for questioning on September 7 following a security advisory against him.

Rivera said Philips was in a meeting in Maa, Davao City, when invited by the police. "There was no resistance and he voluntarily accepted the invitation. Some of his companions were also invited for some inquiries," Rivera said.

Rivera said that Philips has been reportedly banned from 6 countries including the US and Australia for being a security threat and for his alleged links to radical organizations. 

"Our regional director said that Philips is a threat to national security and that one of the basis is that he is banned from 6 countries. So we assumed that he poses a danger to our country," Rivera said.

It's not clear when he first entered the country, but Philips was supposed to give a lecture in Zamboanga City on September 5 and 6. The local government however did not grant a permit for the holding of that event, officials said.

Terror links

Intelligence sources said he is closely identified with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Khalifa stayed in Mindanao for several years in the 1990s.

When Khalifa was in the Philippines, Philips reportedly visited Cotabato City and planned to build an Islamic center in Maguindanao, according to Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa in her book, From Bin Laden to Facebook.

She added: "According to a confidential document provided by US intelligence in 2004, Philips headed the Islamic Information Center (IIC), now known as Discover Islam, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates." 

While Philips has denied any terrorist connections, Ressa wrote that he was "secretly indicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and deported from the United States in 1994. Since then, he has been expelled from a number of Western countries ̶ denied entry to Australia in 2007 and deported from the UK and Germany in 2010."

One of the principal suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, operated in the Philippines and was linked to a failed plot to kill then Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in 1995. 

Philips is now at the regional police headquarters in Davao while his deportation is being processed, Rivera said. "The Bureau of Immigration had already issued a deportation order and we are currently helping process his deportation," Rivera added.

Religious persecution

Several Muslim leaders and human rights advocates believe Philips has done nothing wrong to merit deportation. "This harassment by the authorities against Dr. Philips is an act to dishonor a visitor of Muslims in Mindanao. Being prevented from visiting to preach to his Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao is a form of religious persecution," Mindanao Human Rights Action Center executive director Bobby Benito said. 

On his Facebook page, which has close to 2 million followers, Philips is described as a former Christian who converted to Islam in 1972. He was born in Jamaica but grew up in Canada.

Philips took Arabic courses and completed his degree at the College of Islamic Disciplines at the Islamic University of Madeenah and he took his masters in Islamic Theology at the University of Riyadh. In 1994, Philips finished his doctorate degree in Islamic Theology at the Islamic Studies department at the University of Wales.

His Facebook page also claimed that Philips taught at the Islamic Studies department of Shariff Kabunsuan Islamic Univeristy in Cotabato City.

Philips is currently a lecturer for Islamic Studies and Arabic at the American University in Dubai and the Ajman University at the United Arab Emirates. – Rappler.com