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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim called for calm and sobriety as he expressed concern over the use of social media to exacerbate sectarian conflict in the aftermath of the bombing that killed four people and hurt at least 45 others in Marawi City on Sunday, December 3.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the bombing carried out shortly before a Catholic Mass at the state-run Mindanao State University (MSU). Military and police authorities said the attack was likely staged in response to government offensives against the Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf – groups that are associated with ISIS – in various parts of the Bangsamoro region.
The Council on Climate Conflict and Action Asia (CCCA), a security data-based organization monitoring conflicts in the country, earlier sounded alarm bells as it noted an increase in hate speech, meant to polarize and sow seeds of religious conflict in and outside social media, since the explosion that ripped through MSU’s Ali Dimaporo gym.
“Our Early Response Network (ERN) has already reported an alarming rise in calls for revenge and hate speech on the ground and social media,” CCAA said in a statement.
In a news conference hours after the bombing, Murad said, “So far, there is a good coexistence between Christians and Muslims in MSU-Marawi. We call on everyone, and netizens, not to spread hate on social media and instead help strengthen unity amid these trying times.”
The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) also issued a statement to condemn the bomb attack and at the same time, call for vigilance against any effort to seek repressive state responses.
“As we demand an immediate impartial investigation on this latest act of violence and seek justice for the victims, we should be vigilant against those who will take advantage of the situation by calling for more repressive responses and policies from the government, fomenting further acts of violence, blanket and reckless condemnation based on faith or identity,” read part of the UPLM statement.
The UPLM added, “It is also gravely abhorrent that it was committed during a religious service, apparently viciously calculated to stoke sectarian rage.”
In the Senate on Monday, December 4, Senator Robinhood Padilla cautioned against insinuations, particularly those circulating on social media, suggesting that Sunday’s tragedy was about a conflict between Christianity and Islam.
“Ito po ay mga terorista at kailanman hindi po sila ang representation ng mga Muslim (What happened was the work of terrorists who do not represent Muslims),” he said.
Padilla, who converted to Islam, said the incident highlighted the importance of protecting civilians, particularly the youth, from a “foreign ideology” promoting terrorism.
“Hindi po ito kailanman matatanggap ng mga Muslim na ito po ay kasama sa aming pananampalataya dahil malinaw po sa Koran na sinasabi, ang pumatay ka ng taong walang kasalanan ay para mo nang pinatay mo ang buong daigdig (Muslims will never accept violence as part of their faith. The Koran is clear that if you kill an innocent person, you are killing humanity,” he added. – Rappler.com