The Filipino Christians


Filipino Christians tend to relate Islam primarily with the issue of polygamy and jihad. Their objections to polygamy and jihad are very striking because Islam is perceived to be equivalent to these two issues in the Philippines. It is viewed as a religion of violence and sexual promiscuity (a view reinforced in the post-9/11 portrayal of well-known Muslims as global terrorists in international media); and lately, has been associated with terrorism on a global scale.

What accounts for the Filipinos’ understanding of Islam? Why do the images of Filipino Muslims or Moros[1] in particular and Islam in general seem to be reduced to its adherents’ presumed tendency for violence and vulnerability to women? Are these images the result of mass media reports or have Filipino Muslims historically contributed to such overall impressions? Are these images created by the historical conflict between Muslims and Christians in this country? It seems that all Muslims are treated as a homogeneous group in the eyes of Filipinos, but are there differences among the ethnic groups in terms of the Islamic schools of thought that they represent? How do they understand and interpret Islam? Answers to these questions could lead us to begin understanding the dynamics of Islam in the Philippines, which unavoidably cannot be separated from the struggle of Filipino Muslims or Moros.

Religion is oftentimes used as a motivation for its followers to legitimize actions towards the realization of individual or collective interests. In the case of Filipino Muslims, it is reflected in the various Moro struggles or movements such as the emergence of MILF, MNLF, and most especially the Abu Sayyaf [2]

The history of Muslims or Moros in the Philippines reveals how religion became a unifying ideology for self-determination against colonial rule and injustice. If Filipinos tell the story of their nation as a narrative of resistance, subjugation and oppression, and revolt and emancipation, Moros tell theirs as one of continuing resistance and struggle against both colonial rulers and the colonized Christian majority. In their eyes they have always been free and self-governing (David 2002:73). The dichotomy between Moros and Filipinos has shown not only the Moro’s restless and relentless resistance but has also signified that they did not participate in building the Filipino nation. As a consequence, they have found it even more difficult than members of other ethno-religious groups in the country to see themselves as part of this imagined community (See Anderson, 2003 orig., 1983 for an elaboration of the concept of imagined communities).

It is unfortunate, according to Filipino sociologist Randolf David, that Filipino leaders took for granted the membership within the Filipino nation of the sovereign Muslim sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, trusting that the force of a common racial origin would be sufficient to establish a national bond. It is even more sad that Filipinos who took over from the colonizers continued to practice “the rituals of power of the colonial masters,” treating Muslims differently, aggravating social inequality and alienating them further from the Philippine government. David noted that every post-war administration has launched its own wars of pacification in Mindanao, just as the Americans did (UP Newsletter, Feb. 21, 2003). This situation has pushed Moros or Filipino Muslims to identify themselves as the victims of an unjust and unfair Philippine government. As a consequence, greater self-determination or freedom from the Philippine government has become the pivotal issue in their struggle.

The sociopolitical background of Moros has inevitably influenced the construction of Islam as their religion. Although Filipino Muslims differ in their level of aspiration for an Islamic state, Islam in the Philippines has nevertheless been connected in the public mind to their political aspiration and struggle for self-determination. This is not without basis. Perceived as the solution to the problems of Filipino Muslims, some of their leaders have recently advocated the implementation of Islamic law either under the auspices of the Philippine government or independently of it. Charting alternative futures for Muslim Filipino masses, Islam has begun to constitute an alternative ideology.

The kind of Islam that says religion is inseparable from politics or the public sphere is usually referred to as “fundamentalism” by the western world. Found in countries like Egypt, where it originated as a result of social injustice and lack of equal opportunity for Egyptians[3], Islamic fundamentalism has also gained adherents in the Philippines in the context of persistent socio-political and economic issues that have been the basis of the struggle of Filipino Muslims through time.

In light of a changing socio-political environment aggravated by September 11, 2001 and the resulting War on Terrorism-that Muslims all over the world decry because it virtually equates Islam with terrorism, there is a need to find out whether the fundamentalist perspective of some leaders of Muslim movements like the MILF, MNLF, and Abu Sayyaf is shared by other Muslims. It is also important to explore how Filipino Muslims in the Philippines view the issue of establishing an Islamic state, as well as elements of Islamic law, the position of women, democracy and other related issues, in response to the stimulus of the global environment and social and political actions of a predominantly Christian government in the Philippines.

It is the researcher’s desire to see the connection between the religious and political ideas of Filipino Muslims in situ and compare these in the future, to the ideas of Indonesian Muslims, that led to the interest of this student, an Indonesian Muslim, in finding tentative answers to the above questions. After all, there is no single person or institution in Islam has had the authority or the right to decide the one true interpretation of the holy Qur’an and Hadits as the source of Islamic teaching since the death of the prophet Mohammad (d. 632 A.D). This situation is quite similar to what post-structuralists call “the death of the author.” Islam is one religion but its interpretations are as varied as its adherents or those who read its texts. Such condition has produced different strains of Islam such as moderate Islam, revivalist Islam, fundamentalist Islam, etc. As for any other sociological phenomena, one would see that the perspectives of Muslims regarding Islam in general and Islamic fundamentalism in particular, would vary with the geographic and socio-economic realities they are facing. This thesis does not attempt to look at the views of Muslim Filipinos all over the nation because time and logistical constraints prevent a nation-wide study. It tries, instead to focus on those who have migrated to Metro Manila and who live in an Islamic enclave within the old central city.

The economic problems in Mindanao have pushed Moros to migrate to Metro Manila for a “better life”. From a sociological viewpoint, the move away from the Muslim heartland in Mindanao is expected to result in the change of behavior among the rural migrants. Contact with strangers is seen as a potential source of cultural shock, as strange environments disturb homogeneous ideals. The migrants learn not only to tolerate the attitude and customs of other people, but also to accept insecurity and instability as a normal state of the world. These characteristics could potentially work together to increase the incidence of what Wirth (1938) called “the pathological condition” including personal disorganization, mental breakdown, suicide, delinquency, crime, corruption, and disorder. The same contact could also eventually result in secularization or liberalization, as contact with people from different religious persuasion demands greater religious tolerance.

Another factor that could mediate the way Muslim Filipinos in Metro Manila would think and act vis-à-vis Islam is the loosening of kinship ties. Communal solidarity is replaced by a more rational type of solidarity, the kind that Durkheim (1893/1964) called “organic solidarity.” The close-knit community in rural surroundings is changed in an urban setting, tending to individualize experiences. It is important to note, however, that these processes, which in theory could result in a state of anomie as institutions in places of origin tend to diminish in influence and new urbanized institutions are adopted, may be counteracted by processes that enhance primordial identities.

The case of the Philippines and of urban Muslims in Quiapo is a good example of how tensions between individuation and secularization on the one hand, and solidarity around religion and increasing religious fundamentalisms, on the other, are played out.


This study seeks to understand Islamic fundamentalism in its human and social context, and to explore the impact of modernization and urban life (social context) on fundamentalist thought and practice among urban Muslims in Quiapo by abstracting possible observatims from the views of selected key informants. In particular this study wants to explore and describe the forms of Islamic fundamentalism of selected key informants in the Quiapo area and the factors that have shaped them in the context of the historical and social evolution of the Muslim community of Quiapo. This research also wants to explore the effects of the different factors, including urbanization, that shape the forms of Islamic fundamentalism and the way the fundamentalists live and construct their worldview ideologically. Explore further their views on the formation of an Islamic state, secularization, the implementation of Islamic law, democracy, and the position of women, among others.


This study intends to contribute to the literature on Islam in the Philippines, complementing the studies on the “window display” enclave in Quiapo, Manila where Muslim migrants from Southern Philippines now live-a new habitat that differs significantly from the cultural and social environment of Muslim Mindanao. This study thus might not only enrich the sociology of religion in the country but also our initial understanding of urban-based Filipino Muslims, whose population is increasing significantly. More specifically, it will help us explore the modernizing effect of Metro Manila, if any, on the lifestyles, aspirations, and thoughts of selected Filipino migrant Muslims in the national capital region. Such an exploration would lay the groundwork for a systematic study of a more representative sample of urban-based Filipino Muslims in the future.

Exploring the plight and worldview of Muslim urbanites, as gleaned from the experiences of the key informants, could also help enhance the capability of the government and Filipino Christians and those of other faiths to deal with the Muslim minorities in Metro Manila and in the larger Mindanao context in the spirit of greater pluralism. After all, pluralism is the aim of diversified societies in a rapidly globalizing world. Since the problems of Moros are essentially political, economic and social, trying to impose military solutions is doomed to fail anyway. No army, according to Randy David, can end this problem unless it is prepared to commit genocide (p.75). A sociological study therefore is a prerequisite to solving the Moro problems in Metro Manila particularly and in the country as a whole.

This study also aims to find out whether the claim that there is no homogeneous ideology among Islamic adherents is valid. Like any other religion, Islam as practiced and professed is an interpreted faith. Similar to all other interpretations, is mediated by the socio-cultural context of the individuals who interpret it. Appreciation of the fact that there is no single Islam, hopefully, will foster multiple interpretations of Islam and bridge cultures to make for a pluralist and more tolerant society.


This study is exploratory and descriptive in nature. It aims to delineate how the Moro informants, with varying degrees of non-fundamentalist and fundamentalist Islamic views, as urban migrants constituting an ethnic minority in Quiapo, adapt and respond to the new social environment where they live. This study attempts to describe the impact of the modernizing process and complex urban life on the their religiosity (beliefs and practices vis-à-vis Islamic fundamentalism) and aspirations. As such it hopes, as previously noted, to lay the groundwork for a more definitive and representative study of Islamic fundamentalism in the Quiapo area.

Conducted in the Quiapo area among a purposively selected sample living in the barangays surrounding the Golden Mosque and Barangay 648/ Islamic Center, the study focuses on the everyday life of selected Muslims in a small geographic space. Failure to obtain permissions from the Muslim authorities to interview randomly selected respondents prevents the researcher from generalizing the findings. The conclusions in the study are therefore confined to the views of the key informants or the sample respondents and would not apply to Muslims in the Quiapo community, much less in Metro Manila.

It is also difficult methodologically to capture the religious perspectives or worldviews of respondents because these have changed over time. Furthermore, for fundamentalisms that span both religious and political views, the contradictions between such views and between beliefs and practice do not make it easy to arrive at meaningful conclusions about them.

The problem of attributing the observed beliefs and the perceived changes in religiosity to factors found in the urban environment is also worth noting. The study relies heavily on the reconstructions of the respondents of their biographies and the changes in their views from the vantage point of the present. Thus, the observed effects of adapting to life in Metro Manila on the respondents’ religious beliefs and practices as well as views on political and social issues may not correspond neatly to actual changes in these practices and views. At best the study’s findings regarding Islamic religiosity and fundamentalism among selected Muslims in Quiapo and the possible effects of the urban environment on their manifestations explores and presents initial thoughts regarding possible sociological relationships that need further validation by future researchers.

Finally, a major limitation of the study is the researcher`s lack of proficiency in the language of the Muslim community in Quiapo. His interpretations, therefore, are limited by the way he understood the answers to his questions or by the understanding of the translator. Moreover, as an outsider who does not speak the language in the site, he could have failed to fully capture the nuances of the spoken and body language of the respondents, and therefore, could not probe deeply into their worldview. Nevertheless, the proficiency of 80% of the respondents in some Arabic or English provided the researcher with direct access to their answers.

Following the references cited in the literature review below, the characteristics of fundamentalism that were explored in this study are not be reduced to the violent dimension of Islamic fundamentalist religiosity which generally prevails in the mind of the Christian Filipino public. The study focuses on the views of Muslim respondents on five issues: 1) the tahkimiyah (sovereignty) or the secular state vs. Islamic state; 2) democracy and the implementation of syariah/ Islamic law; 3) literal interpretation of the Qur’an, 4) the rights of women, and 5) jihad. Focusing on these issues would allow the researcher to roughly construct preliminary segments of the worldview of selected Filipino Muslims in the Quiapo area and determine the level of influence of fundamentalist thought on them.


The researcher draws from theories and ideas found in the literature in the Sociology of Religion in determining the data to be gathered and in analyzing his findings. This section brings together the literature on fundamentalism, city phenomenon and religiosity.

Islamic Fundamentalism

Historical and Doctrinal Survey

One of the most controversial religious terms is fundamentalism. Within Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other faiths, the term is used to refer to the most conservative wing of a religion. Author Karen Armstrong (2000:12) in The Battle for God defines fundamentalism as embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis, namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. Bruce Lawrence in Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (1989) views fundamentalism as the affirmation of religious authority as holistic and absolute, admitting neither criticism nor reduction; it is expressed through the collective demand that specific creedal and ethical principles derived from scripture be publicly recognized and legally enforced. Jeffrey K. Hadden and Anson Shupe (1989: 109-122), offered the following definition of fundamentalism: it is a proclamation of reclaimed authority over a sacred tradition, which is to be instated as an antidote for a society that has strayed from its cultural moorings. They note that fundamentalists refute the split between the sacred and the secular that characterizes modernist thinking. It also involves a plan to bring religion back to center stage in public policy decisions. For Hadden and Shupe (1989:72) fundamentalism is an attempt to draw upon a religious tradition to cope with and reshape an already changing world. They both argue that around the world there is a “common process of secularizing social change.” This process contains “the very seeds of a reaction that brings religion back into the heart of concerns about public policy. The secular …is also the cause of resacralization…(which) often takes fundamentalistic forms.”

From the definitions above, fundamentalism is seen as a radical reaction to the new social world (modernity) to the purity and originality of religious fundamentals and morality of a certain religion or faith. Modernity is viewed as a corrosive force making religious traditions less and less significant in individual and social affairs. The fundamentalists are anti-modern insofar as they are opposed to the perceived evils of modernity and their negative impact. To consider them anti-modern, however, is problematic due to the ways in which even self-styled fundamentalists are implicated in the culture of modernity. American fundamentalists, for example, come from a tradition of religious pluralism and the separation of church and state; the differentiating rationality of modern times is by no means alien to them.

The attempt within different religions to go back to fundamentals and resist or turn back liberal or secular tendencies in theology, culture and society, regardless of historical religion-cultural origin was inspired either by a religious vision or sacred text.

It is ironic that the globalization of modernity, with its power to change the world through technological developments and widespread communication in cyberspace, is associated with the rise of fundamentalist visions and texts. This phenomenon rejects the assumption of secularist thinkers that religion is a primitive superstition that will be outgrown by civilized, rational man. Some secularist thinkers (Marx, Freud, Nietzsche) confidently predicted its imminent demise. At best they said religion is a marginal and private activity, which could no longer influence world events. The world now realizes, however, that this is a false prophecy. It is true that modernity could undermine the essence of religiosity and to some extent strengthen its separation from social affairs. But modernity could have also created the fundamentalist attitude that reacts to modernity itself. The contradictory outcomes of modernity-the separation of the sacred from the secular on the one hand and their fusion in fundamentalism, on the other hand, makes for the dialectics of social change, which hopefully will result in a better social order.

The term fundamentalism has its origin in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, a series of pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915 [6] that served as a point of reference for groups of conservative American Protestants early in the twentieth century (Lecher, 1998:197, Rakhmat, 1998:260, An-Na’im: Encarta Reference Library, 2003). By and large this was a response to the loss of religious influence and emerged in the context of the traditional revivalism experienced in America during the early twentieth century. This loss of influence, coupled with the liberalizing trends of German biblical criticism and the encroachment of Darwinist theories about the origin of the universe prompted a response by the conservative churchmen. At the time, the authenticity of the Bible, the origin of the universe, the birth of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion as the way of salvation and the second coming of the Christ were reinterpreted by liberal theologians in a new way to accommodate new scientific and technological discoveries. In 1920, a journalist and Baptist layman, Curtis Lee Laws, appropriated the term fundamentalist as a designation for those who were ready to do battle royal for fundamentals (

Originating historically within the Christian tradition, the term fundamentalism in Islam has been criticized and its use is regarded as misleading. John L Esposito (1996:43) of Georgetown University pointed out that the term fundamentalism is laden with Christian presuppositions and western stereotypes, and it implies a monolithic threat. More useful according to Esposito are the terms Islamic revivalism, Islamic activism, and political Islam, which are less value-laden and have roots within a tradition of political reform and social activism. Garaudy (1991:1) might sharpen the suggestion of Esposito by saying that the term ‘fundamentalism” is not merely limited to religion, but is also related to politics, society and culture. For him fundamentalism is the worldview erected on the basis of conviction (belief) whether it is religious, political or cultural, practiced and indoctrinated by the founder of that belief (1991:1). Akbar S. Ahmed further criticizes the appropriateness of using and applying the term fundamentalism to Islam.

As we know it, in its original application, it means someone who believes in the fundamentals of religion, that is Bible and the scriptures. In that sense every Muslim is a fundamentalist believing in the Qur’an and the prophet. However the manner that it is used in the media to mean a fanatic or extremist, it does not illuminate either Muslim thought or Muslim society. In the Christian context it is a useful concept. In the Muslim context it simply confuses because by definition every Muslim believes in the fundamentals of Islam. But even Muslims differ in their ideas about how, and to what extent, to apply Islamic ideas to the modern world (Living Islam: 18-19).

In light of the objections and considering the need to sharpen the meaning of fundamentalism as applied to Islam, observers use the term rigorism or in French integrisme to describe fundamentalism phenomenon. Referring originally to Catholic traditionalist group, integrism aims to integrate all aspects of life into religion and vise versa (Nasr, 1987:304; Watt, 1988:2; Gellner 1992: 2). Fundamentalism as integrism would then refer to reintegrating a social order under the canopy of one all-encompassing sacred tradition. Salvatore called those who looked at Islam as both a religion and a state, the equivalent of French integrists, the solutionists/ conflationist. For this group, Islam is the solution (Islam huwa al-Hall) for individual and social order (1998:84). The underlying idea for Islam as for any given faith is to be upheld firmly in its full and literal form or free of compromise, reinterpretation or diminution (Gellner 1992:2).

The positive view of fundamentalism as a term used even within the Islamic tradition is expressed by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im (2003). The origin of the term according to Na’im should not preclude its application to movements in the Islamic, Jewish, Hindu or another religious tradition if they share the same salient features and important traits. The defining characteristic of American Protestant fundamentalist movement for the author was firm, principled, and militant opposition to the inroads that modernism, liberalism, and higher Biblical criticism were making into the Protestant churches, and the supposedly Bible-based culture of the United State at large.

Islamic fundamentalists according to Na’im hold sufficiently similar beliefs in relation to Islam and the Qur’an. Moreover Islamic movements in North Africa and the Middle East use the corresponding Arabic term Ushuli/ Ushuliyya to describe themselves and their beliefs, and not simply as a matter of recent translation of the American term.[7] The call to affirm and implement the “fundamentals” of the faith, as distinguished from its incidentals, is an established and recurrent theme in Islamic theological and political discourse, as can be seen from the title of the book by al-Ash’ari (d. 935) al-Ibanah ‘an Ushul al-Diniyyah (The Elucidation of the Fundamentals of the Religion). Other scholars who emphasize this theme in their work include al-Ghazali (d.1111), Ibn Taymiyyah (d.1328) and Ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787).

Adding legitimacy to the use of the term fundamentalism in Islam, Lawrence Davidson argued that there are two reasons for using it in analyzing Muslim movements: (1) The expression Islamic fundamentalism has come into wide usage in the West as well as in the Muslim world, where it is rendered in Arabic as al-Ushuliyyah al-Islamiyyah. Here the word ushuli can be translated as fundamentalist. In fact, it is so generally accepted that it is now the main descriptive expression recognized by all interested parties to describe the Islamic revivalist movements. (2) The term ” fundamentalism” is sufficiently accurate to describe Muslims who see themselves as adhering to the ultimate fundamentals or foundations of their religion, and also to a literalist interpretation of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an (Davidson, 1989: 16-17).

Following the arguments for the use of ‘fundamentalism’ to refer to Islamic revivalism, this thesis applies the term ‘fundamentalist’ to Filipino Muslims who struggle for the unity of church and the public sphere including the state in the ideology of the independent Islamic state and society for Muslim Mindanao.

Scholarly Analysis

Lawrence (1989) views fundamentalism in the context of a struggle with modernism and modernity. To clarify the active “defense of God” from the inside, Lawrence examines how actors bring the resources of their tradition to bear on problems they encounter. Aspiring to bring the kingdom of God to the earth as a whole, the ‘defenders of God’ have become important actors in this global scene. From Lawrence’s analysis we clearly see that fundamentalism is not a necessary consequence of something inherent in a religion. As a code of ethics and guide to the people on how to live in accordance with God’s will, religion’s hold is either undermined by a modernity that directs people to live according to human reason and freedom or enhanced by it.

Fundamentalism represents modernity’s giving rise to a deepening of religious faith. As modernity eroded the influence of the sacred, Lawrence argues that the Defenders of God actively called for a return to fundamentals. Jeff Hayness (1999) also asserts that religious fundamentalists, feeling that their way of life is under threat in the modern world, aims to reform society in accordance with religious tenets, to change laws, morality, social norms and sometimes the political configurations of their country.

From another angle, Risebrodt (1993) noted that the increasing inability of traditional cultural milieus to reproduce themselves under modern (concretely: urban) conditions is the source for the birth of fundamentalism, a kind that he conceptualizes as a radically traditionalist movement. Risebrodt considers fundamentalism as the failure of traditionalists to adapt to modernizing projects. One can conclude from the literature that fundamentalism emerged as cultural and sociological reaction or an antithesis to social change from pre-modern–with traditionalist characteristics–to a modern era. When modernity erodes the traditional values, which are the characteristics of a pre-modern era, and traditionalists are unable to reproduce themselves under the modern era, “fundamentalism” is viewed as a viable and possibly the only alternative to choose.

Other observers saw fundamentalism as one of the symptoms of or religio-political expressions in a post-modern era (Ahmed: 1992; Ahmed & Donnan 1994). In 1988, Richard Falk (1988:379) observed that “ours is a period of unexpected, varied, and multiple resurgence of religion of political force.” He asserts that politicized religion (fundamentalism) is a form of post-modern protest against the mechanization, atomization, and alienation of the modern world. Religion, he argued, provides the materials with which to move beyond purely instrumental rationality and address core issues of the current human situation (Falk 1988: p.382).

Tracing the rise of Islam revivalism and fundamentalism to modernity or post-modernity, the view of Islamic fundamentalism as a form of religio-political expression in the postmodern era can be seen as a-historical and a-sociological. In fact the Wahabiyyah movement led by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-92) in the Arabian peninsula, which is so often been seen as prototype of Islamic fundamentalism, arose before the European penetration into that area.

Moreover the raison d’être of the Wahabiyyah movement is an internal purification-that is, the purification of Islamic practices at that time. The movement was thus born not as a reaction to western penetration, much less to modernization projects. It existed long before the modern and post-modern stages or at least in the early stages of modernity. To relate the birth of Islamic fundamentalism merely to Western influence is therefore a simplification of the complex religio-social realities of Islam. In fact, the ideological awareness of postmodernism as a rejection of modernism is found among only a few Muslims. The sociological situation of most contemporary Muslims worldwide, unlike their Western counterparts, puts them in “pre-modern” or “modern periods rather than in a postmodern phase. Only Muslim intellectuals would comprehend the failure of modernity’s projects and the return to religious fundamentalism as part of a postmodern outlook. And even if they do, the rejection of al-Maududi (1903-1979) or other Islamic fundamentalist movement and the modernization of Islam is only beginning, making a “postmodern” interpretation of fundamentalism an epistemological question rather than corresponding to a postmodernism stage of civilization.

Fundamentalism in Islam is more appropriately seen as an extreme form of Islamic revivalism or Islamic awakening in Qutb’s term. If the orientation of Islamic revival takes a form of religious intensification inwardly (inward oriented) at the individual level, the intensification in fundamentalism is aimed outwardly as well (outward oriented). Islamic revivalism or inward-intensification has involved the escalation of individual attachment to Islam while fundamentalism entails high commitment not only to transform individual life, but also communal and social life. Hence Islamic fundamentalism is often esoteric, emphasizing more on lawfulness or unlawfulness based on the Islamic law (halal-haram complex).

In this regard, the classification of Azra is useful. He distinguishes two types of Islamic fundamentalism: pre-modern (fundamentalism) and contemporary fundamentalism (neo-fundamentalism). Pre-modern fundamentalism is caused by the condition and situation of the Muslim community itself. Therefore, it is more genuine and inward oriented. On the other hand, contemporary fundamentalism emerges as a reaction against the penetration of Muslim life by western systems, social values, culture, politics and economics either as a direct consequence of Western colonialism or through the integration of Western aspects into the thinking of Muslim intellectuals who are modernist, secularist, and western oriented. Such intellectuals constitute Western extensions for Islamic fundamentalists (Azra, 1996: p.111).

The Iran revolution is a clear example of the contemporary fundamentalist movement’s protest against Western modernity, which Reza Pahlevi imposed repressively. The Ayatollah Khumeini, on the other hand, is a perfect personification of the success of deconstruction of Western political order and also–in Khatibi’s term-decentering of modernism of western politics and thought for flatting a way toward untaught system of thought (Khatibi 1985:9-19).

Although Islam contained within itself some elements of modernism, the modernization of Islam, as we know it now originated in Europe when powerful Western regimes penetrated several Muslim communities/countries militarily, culturally and intellectually. The difficulty for many Muslims, or rather Arabs, as stated by Binder is that modernity, even if it is a universal human destiny, is existentially Western and therefore, alien to them. It does not represent authenticity. The Muslim question like that posed by colonized peoples is how to get “there” from “here” without giving up an Islamic identity (1997:319).

The question of faith in the contemporary scene was presented by Ernest Gellner in terms of three basic contesting views in his Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (1992). These views represent fundamental and irreducible positions required to map our condition today. They are, according to Gellner, somewhat like the children’s game of scissors, paper and rock: a pair of scissors cuts paper, the paper wraps the rock, the rock blunts the scissors. There is no stable dominance of one over the other but only inherent instability. The three contesting views are (Gellner, 1992:2):

  1. Religious fundamentalism, which believes in a unique truth and which believes itself to be in possession of it.
  2. Relativism exemplified for instance by the recent fashion of ‘postmodernism’. It believes in a variety of formulations, which disregards the idea of a unique truth, but tries to treat each particular vision as if it were nonetheless true.
  3. Enlightenment rationalism, or rationalist fundamentalism which retains the faith in the uniqueness of truth, but does not believe we ever posses it definitely, and which uses, as the foundation for practical conduct and inquiry, not any substantive conviction, but only a loyalty to certain procedural rules.[8]

When modernity penetrates religion, Gellner sees secularization and the erosion of community life as factors that undermine it. Secularization according to Luckman (1967) emerges from the growing irrelevance of traditional religious forms in contemporary society. Relying on the logic of science and reason, modernization will consequently marginalize religion; the separation between church and the state or secularization becomes unavoidable as a necessary movement towards the modern era. Gellner wrote:

It (i.e. theory of secularization) runs as follows: in the scientific-industrial society, religious faith and observance decline. One can give intellectualist reasons for this: the doctrines of religion are in conflict with those of science, which in turn are endowed with enormous prestige, and which constitute the basis of modern technology, and thereby also of modern economy. Therefore, religious faith declines. Its prestige goes down as the prestige of its rival rises (p.4).

Fundamentalism emerges at this point as a form of protest against the secularizing wave. It is expressed in the effort to fuse once again the affairs of church and state. Moreover Gellner notes alternatively that modernity has demolished the “celebration of community”, forming an atomized world of modern mass society. Under such a situation there is little community to celebrate other than possibly the national state-and that state has found its own new ritual and set of values in nationalism. The erosion of community life, Gellner notes is reflected in the loss of faith and the diminished appeal of ritual (p.4-5). The purpose of fundamentalists is to bring back community life united by the same faith, as a deconstruction of the modern individualistic life in an atomized world.

At the end of the middle Ages, the Old World according to Gellner contained four major civilizations. Of these, three are now (i.e. Christian, Sinic and Indian world) in one measure or another, secularized (p.6). But in the Islamic world, the situation is altogether different. Gellner was puzzled by the uniqueness of Islam by asking why should one particular religion be so markedly secularization-resistant? He answered his question by mentioning the two styles of Islam-High Islam and Low or Folk Islam. Gellner found that within the Islamic world, low culture was contaminated by high culture through the spread of literacy. This contamination he sees as one of the prime causes of the strength of fundamentalism in the modern world of Islam.

High Islam is carried by urban scholars, recruited largely from the trading bourgeoisie, and reflects the natural tastes and values of urban middle classes. Those values include order, rule-observance, sobriety, and learning. They contain an aversion to hysteria and emotional excess and to the excessive use of the audio-visual aids of religion. High Islam stresses the severely monotheistic and nomocratic nature of Islam, it is mindful of the prohibition of claims to mediation between God and man, and it is generally oriented towards Puritanism and scripturalism. Low Islam is different. In encouraging literacy, it uses writing for magical purposes, rather than as a tool of scholarship. It stresses magic more than learning, ecstasy more than rule-observance. The friction between the two styles of Islam would lead to the emergence of the fundamentalist spirit in their religiosity. High Islam would launch a kind of internal purification movement, and attempt to re-impose itself on the whole society. Interesting to observe is that in the long term they were never successful, so that the resulting pattern was one that might be called an eternal or cyclical reformation as noted by Ibn Khaldun and David Hume.[9]

When the reformer (of Islam) prevails and had re-establishes a purified order, things slowly return to normal. The spirit Gellner notes is willing but the social flesh is weak (p.13). Literate, rule-abiding scripturalist puritanism is practicable for urban scholars, but not so for the mass, or for the rural tribesmen. They may according to him embrace it during the ardent period of revival and the struggle for its enforcement, but they will forget it when they return to the home life of camp and village. For reasons well explored by Durkheim’s sociology (1915), they need a form of religion on the ground which provides society with its temporal and spatial markers, which indicates the boundaries of sub-groups and seasonal activities, and which provides the rituals and the masters of ceremonies for festivals.

Some changes still occurred in the Islamic world but they were not as dramatic as in the Christian world. This might have caused the restless resistance of Muslim communities towards secularization. The continued friction between high Islam and low Islam and between modernist-reformist and traditionalist within the former as noted by Engels did not result in much change but merely a repetition of what Ibn Khaldun has predicted.

Arguing, however, like Khaldun that “change” in the Islamic world has resulted in mere cyclical repetition is disregarding Islamic historical reality. Although Islamic history could be summarized as a continual friction between reformist and fundamentalist groups, we will see how modern values and changes happened as a result of these frictions. The characteristics that differentiate Islamic revivalism, Islamic reformism and Islamic radicalism mapped by Choueiri (1997: 181) in Table 1 below will sharpen those evolutionary and gradual changes.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Islam is actually an extreme reaction against Islamic liberal thought. Fazlur Rahman (1979) in Islam: Challenges and Opportunities describes the reaction of Islamic fundamentalists to Islamic liberalists/modernists. What Rahman called the revivalist movement began with pre-modern revivalist movements particularly the wahabbiyah movement. Along with the Wahabbi movement, other movements emerged-in North Africa, the Sanusiah movement, the Fulaniah movement in West Africa, and other movements in India. All these movements constituted the pre-modern revivalists in Islam. In Indonesia, the pre-modern Islamic revivalist would include the Padri movement in Minangkabau, in the early nineteenth century. Pre-modern Islamic revivalist movements were actually not reactions to Islamic liberal thought since there was no liberal movement at that time. The ideas and differences among Islamic movements and its characteristics in Islam based on the frame-thought of Rahman as drawn by Awad Bahason (1993; 106-07) are enumerated in Table 2.

Pre-Modern Islamic Revivalism (Fundamentalism)

  1. Deep concern for social and moral issues in Islamic society
  2. Call to return to the Qur’an and tradition of the prophet
  3. Opening the ijtihad (intellectual exercise to renew the laws)
  4. Anti-religious practices of the masses
  5. The renewal of Islamic teachings if needed

Classic Islamic Modernism

  1. Straightening up of social and moral aspects of the society, emphasizing education
  2. Western ideas considered as a standard of modernity and development, and new interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadits are considered necessary
  3. Social reform through education, women participation and political reform through constitutional and representative government
  4. Combining Islamic tradition with Western institutions such as democracy, sciences and university
  5. Doing freedom movement, anti-colonialism and imperialism


  1. Well organized socio-political movement
  2. Continuing classic Islamic modernism, and operating modern Islamic education such as modern school and university
  3. Islam is considered as a total system of life individually or collectively (societal level)
  4. Searching and forming non-Western self-identity through economic, social and political system. (the issue of Islamization)
  5. Strengthening the spirit of anti- Western colonialism and imperialism


  1. The style and methodology of their thought are more westernized
  2. Ijtihad is applied in many variations systematically and comprehensively
  3. Separation between religion and politics
  4. Religious tolerance individually
  5. The increasing of socio-religious responsibility

Below is an elaboration of the features of fundamentalism by some experts (Nader Saiedi 1984: 182-92; Marty 1992: 3-13; Azam 1998: 262-3; Salvatore 1998):

First: Repressive interpretation on behalf of God. The traditionalist/ fundamentalist position is that knowledge is given either by revelation or reason, and that opinion is not knowledge. Knowledge means the correct representation of the world, free of error and without distortion of perspective, intentionally, or physical frailty. Islamic faith is not a matter of opinion for a true believer. There can be no opinion regarding the theoretical absolute or the revealed truth, though differences may be unavoidable in practice. But even this contrast between theory and practice is to be distinguished from the liberal justification of the diversity of opinion. Liberalists treat religion as opinion and therefore tolerate diversity in precisely those realms that traditional belief insists upon without any ambivalence.

Second: Unification of religion and the state. Fundamentalists insist on building an ideal state (religious state) and destroying the secular state. Its slogan is captured in the 3Ds formula: Islam = din (religion) + dunya (world) + dawla (state) (Julkipli, 1998; Salvatore, 1998; Mousolli, 1998). Here Islam is considered ” a complete way of life,” thus encompassing the sociopolitical, economic, and religious aspects of human life. Fundamentalists have always idealized Muhammad and the early Islam as a standard of development in Islam. William Montgomery Watt (1988) warns of the danger of this idealization, namely that the community becomes so obsessed with recreating something in the past that it fails to see and deal with the real challenges and problems of the present.

Third: The spread of evil symbols associated with modernity and the West.

Forth: Literalism-scriptural. They also reject historical and rational interpretations of the divine text.

Fifth: Obsession with super-structural issues. Fundamentalists see alcoholism, adultery, homosexuality, freedom of speech, minority religious group, and so on, as the problems of society. They reject sociological categories such as class, class interests, and social organization. Its main concern is the development of symbolic Islamic culture completely and strictly regardless of class, ethnic and historical differences in society.

Sixth: Pan-Islamism. Its obsession is to create a pan-Islamic state as an extension of the concept of ummah (community of believers) which is defined ideologically. Non-believers such as Christians in Pakistan or Baha’i followers in Iran will be the second-class citizens in such a state.

Seventh: Patriarchy. Fundamentalists are usually concerned with the use of the strict veil (hijab) to signify the role and position of women in Islamic society. It is interesting to quote in Saiedi’s study that the problem of Muslim countries with modernity (Western civilization) is not based primarily on political culture as Huntington asserts but is linked to the way it treats woman and their freedoms.

Eighth: No East no West. This slogan, actually quoted from the verse of the holy Qur’an (chapter 24 verse 35), is given political and ideological interpretation. Favoring neither communist (East) nor capitalist (West), Islamic fundamentalism seeks to liberate Muslims from dominant ideologies and admonishes them to stand independently of prevailing ideologies in terms of politics, economics, social, and cultural development.

Ninth: Authoritarian in fundamentalist discourse. Fundamentalists emphasize normative and doctrinal discourse more than descriptive or factual discourse. For them, every issue has a clear and typical answer. Any alternative answer is an illusion and must be rejected. They also believe in objective and absolute values. Extending this belief to everyday life, there is an interpretation of and an absolute solution to every problem, which is derived from authority rather than individual rationality or reasoning.

The above characteristics are important parameters in assessing the prevalence and practice of fundamentalist thought in the Muslim community in Quiapo and the influence of the urban city’s secular lifestyle on it. Modern Manila’s society may be hypothesized to exhibit the following: greater individualism and rationality, the prevalence of secular laws and regulations, and pluralism. It is, therefore, a good social laboratory to observe how an initial group of Moro migrant Muslims from southern provinces with their spirit of Islam, notion of the Islamic state, separation from the government, and different socio-cultural background accept, react, or adapt to the different socio-political and cultural environment.

As mentioned previously, this study draws from the literature the issues to focus on in exploring the fundamentalism of selected Muslims: the Islamic state, democracy and the implementation of syariah/Islamic law, literal interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadits, the position of women in society, and jihad. After all, Naim (2003) concluded that Islamic fundamentalism everywhere is an expression of the right of Muslim people to political, religious, and/or cultural self- determination. Accordingly, Islamic fundamentalism claims to represent the free choice of Muslim communities whether in terms of demands for the strict application of syariah (Islamic law) as a comprehensive way of life by the state (when Muslims are the majority) or through voluntary compliance in social relations and personal lifestyle (when Muslims are the minority) (CDROOM Encarta, Reference Library 2003).

City Phenomenon

The migration of Muslim Filipinos from the agrarian setting of Mindanao to the urban environment of a metropolis is hypothesized to affect their worldview in ways that could either erode or strengthen their religiosity, and if they possess radical Islamic views, their fundamentalism. Presumably, life in the complex city could radically change the Filipino Muslim’s traditional patterns of social life and the nature of the Moro community. For this reason, the following literature is relevant to the study.

Classical sociologist Ferdinand Toennies contrasted two types of social organization–one typical for rural areas, the other characteristic of urban areas (1963; orig.1887).Gemeinschaft (a German word meaning roughly ‘community”) is a type of social organization characterized by strong social solidarity based on tradition and predominantly personal relationships. In Toennies’s view rural peoples were strongly bound to one another by ties of kinship, neighborhood, and friendship. Gemeinschaft then describes any social setting in which people form what is, more or less, a single primary group. In contrast gesellschaft (means “association’) is a type of social organization characterized by weak social solidarity resulting from cultural pluralism and predominantly impersonal social relationships. Here people rarely act with the well-being of everyone in mind. Instead, they are motivated largely by self-interest. City dwellers have little common identity and few collective goals. Like a vast secondary group, they tend to see others as a means of achieving their own individual goals.

Toennies` analysis was extended by Georg Simmel (1964; orig. 1905). Like Toennies, Simmel saw urban life as distinct and sought to understand how the city shapes the individual’s attitudes and orientation towards others. In a classic essay published in 1903, he noted that city dwellers are continually bombarded by a tremendous amount of “nervous stimulation” (Hatt & Reiss, 1951: 563-74). Noise, traffic, crowds, the rapid pace of life, and dozens of other stimuli overload the urban resident. Simmel argued, that an urbanite could be overwhelmed by the situation in the city. Consequently, city people typically develop what Simmel called “a blasé attitude”. By this he meant being selective about their responses, tuning out much of what goes on around them and focusing their attention only on what they deem important.

Both Toennies and Simmel showed how urban life replaced social solidarity, rural communality and the sense of belonging in a shared group with that of urban individuality. Even though solidarity is rebuilt in urban areas, it usually takes the form, according to the theorists, of an organic type of solidarity-one based on the interdependence of people who engage in specialized activities– and not mechanical solidarity based on the perception that people are alike. This shift for Emile Durkheim is the result of the increasing division of labor. Under a regime of organic solidarity, urbanities tend to be individualists, with greater freedom but also increasingly in danger of being isolated and alone.

Louis Wirth (1951) painted city life with a broader brush than Simmel, but he reached similar conclusions regarding the psychological impact of urban life. For Wirth, the essential characteristics of a city are its size, density, and the social diversity of its population: “the larger, the more densely populated, and the more heterogeneous a community, the more accentuated the characteristics associated with urbanism will be” (Hatt & Reiss, 33-49). According to Wirth, urban dwellers are specialized in the work they do and in their relationship with other people. Being highly specialized, they know one another only in superficial and impersonal ways. The city thus is a complex mass of people living close together, but without deep emotional ties. The city dwellers often feel lonely and isolated even in the midst of vast crowds. Urbanites learn to tolerate the attitudes and customs of other people, but they also learn to accept insecurity and instability as the normal state of the world. These characteristics work together to increase the incidence of what Wirth called “pathological condition”,” including ” personal disorganization, mental breakdown, suicide, delinquency, crime, corruption, and disorder”.

Few contemporary sociologists agree that city life is as negative as Wirth pictured it. Some argue that Wirth’s ideas merely reflect small-town America’s dislike of cities and their rapid growth. For example, Herbert J. Gans (1970) noted that Wirth overlooked the many city dwellers with a strong sense of community (Gutman & Popenoe, 1970). Gan’s studies identified five distinct types of city dwellers and only some suffer from social isolation:

  • Cosmopolites, such as artists, writers, entertainers, intellectuals, and professionals choose to live in the city because of its cultural activities;
  • Childless couples living in the city to be near job opportunities and social life;
  • Ethnic city dwellers living in self-contained ethnic communities who are able to maintain their traditional ways of life and kinship patterns;
  • Deprived people include the poor, the handicapped, and minority groups;
  • Trapped people who are sliding down the social scale or are retired and living on fixed incomes and thus are unable to leave their decaying neighborhoods.

Gans argued that only the last two types of people experience the urban way of life described by Wirth. The others belong either to a supportive subculture or are in the city voluntarily because of the benefits it offers. More positively, Gans found that social class and age have a greater effect on urban lifestyles than does city living itself. Moreover, Claude Fischer (1984) stated that the city actually gives people a sense of belonging because it contains a variety of subcultures that support and cater to interests that cannot be satisfied anywhere else. In non-urban areas according to Fischer, people with unusual or even deviant interests are too few in number to form a subculture or community. But in the city, the necessary “critical mass” of potential members exists. Thus, while the size, density, and social diversity of the city might facilitate unconventional and even deviant behavior, urban life does not necessarily destroy a sense of community. On the contrary, it may help create and develop sub-cultural communities–private worlds that give people a sense of intimacy and belonging despite the impersonality of the wider city environment.

Josept Follet (1955) speaks about the effect of city life upon spiritual life. He stated that urban loneliness is quite distinct from the solitude of the rural worker. It is loneliness experienced by individuals amidst a large group of fellow men to whom they are not related in a genuinely personal way. In fact, urban loneliness is not really solitude at all. It is the experience of being outside of rather than away from a group. As such, it is the by-product of the city’s tendency to substitute propinquity for community and to expand the range of its associations only at the secondary level (p. 341).

Many secular and religious urban activities are devoted to alleviating this sense of loneliness. Churches and religious organizations are often valued as community centers where people can become acquainted. Yet the primary purpose of an urban spirituality, and the work of the church in urban areas, cannot be to give back to men what urban life takes away from them. For the replacement of what is lost is not sufficient to consecrate what they have. The real task of spirituality and religion for Follet is to consecrate and to exalt the values of city life. Spirituality and religion must find some way of giving ultimate meaning to city life by transforming its activities so that they can be dedicated to the greater glory of God (p. 342).

Follet further saw the city as in perpetual state of paradox. The best and the worst things happen in cities. The Metropolis is a “center of culture as well as a home of uncultivated masses, whose debased standard presents a constant threat to culture. It is the source of law and order and the headquarters of crime; a religious and ecclesiastical center and a place of indifference and impiety” (p. 342). Perhaps because of this situation E. Gordon Ericksen in Urban Behavior (1954) defined the city as a social laboratory. He wrote:

Something has happened to human beings since they have become urban dwellers. A new pattern of life has emerged, with people living together much like sardines in a can yet treating each other indifferently. As a place where custom has been supersede by public opinions and positive law, where man lives by his wits rather than by instinct or tradition, the city is a breeding ground for individuals as units of thought and action rather than passive, adaptive mechanisms motivated by simple physiological drives.

Harvey Cox (1966) divided the maniere d’etre (manner of being) of the city into its shape (the social component) and its style (the cultural aspect). There are two elements of social shape of the city. The first is the switchboard, the key to communication in the city, linking human beings to one another through modern electronic magic. The next is the highway cloverleaf, the image of simultaneous mobility in many different directions. These symbols suggest both possibility and problems. They illustrate two characteristic components of the social shape of the modern metropolis: anonymity and mobility (Cox, P. 38).

Two motifs in particular characterize the style of the secular city. Cox called them pragmatism and profanity (p.60). By pragmatism Cox meant secular man’s concern with the question “Will it work?” Secular man for Cox is not concerned with mysteries. He is least interested in anything that seems resistant to the application of human energy and intelligence. He judges ideas, as the dictionary suggests in its definition of pragmatism, by the “result they will achieve in practice”. The world is viewed not as a “unified metaphysical system but as a series of problems and projects”. By profanity Cox refers to “secular man’s wholly terrestrial horizon”, the disappearance of any supramundane reality defining his life. Profane means literally “outside the temple”-thus ” having to do with this world.” By calling him profane, secular man is by no means sacrilegious, but unreligious. He views the world not in terms of some other. Profane man is simply worldly (p. 60-61).

The Fate of Religiosity

Urban life cannot be separated from modern process. Modernization has always brought social and cultural changes including changes in the religiosity of people. This section briefly summarizes the relevant literature.

Harvey Cox (1966) pointed out that the age of the secular modern city is an age of “no religion at all”. It no longer looks to religious rules and rituals for its morality or its meanings (p. 3). For some, religion provides a hobby, for others a mark of national or ethnic identification, for still others an esthetic delight. For fewer and fewer does it provide an inclusive and commanding system of personal and cosmic values and explanations. Peter Berger (1977) noted four general features that indicate the modernization of society:

  • The decline of small traditional communities
  • The expansion of personal choice
  • Increasing diversity in patterns of belief
  • Future orientation and growing awareness of time

Berger suggests that a characteristic of modernity is “the progressive weakening, if not destruction, of the concrete and relatively cohesive communities in which human beings have found solidarity and meaning throughout most of history” (p.72). As the power of tradition declines, people in modern societies come to view their lives as a series of options or personal choices, which Peter Berger describes as the process of individualization. In Berger ‘s view, this recognition of alternatives is based on a crucial willingness to embrace change. In modern societies, he claims, people readily imagine that “things could be other than what they have been” (p.77). This also happened to religion and belief. If in rural society, religious belief and other elements of tradition tend to enforce conformity at the expense of diversity and change, so in modern society, modernity promotes a more rational, scientific worldview, so that cultural norms and values become more variable.

Here Berger (1979) explains three options for religious thought in the pluralistic situation; the deductive, reductive, and inductive options. The deductive option is to reassert the authority of a religious tradition in the face of modern secularity. The deductive option has the cognitive advantage of once more providing religious reflection with objective criteria of validity. The major disadvantage is the difficulty of sustaining the subjective plausibility of such a procedure in the modern situation (p.62). Religious fundamentalism often arises from this kind of thought.

The reductive option is to reinterpret the tradition in terms of modern secularity, which in turn is taken to be a compelling necessity of participating in modern consciousness. It is according to Berger an exchange of authorities: the authority of modern thought or consciousness is substituted for the authority of the tradition, the Deus dixit of old replaced by Homo modernus dixit. In other words, modern consciousness and its alleged categories become the only criteria of validity for religious reflection. The major advantage of this option is that it reduces cognitive dissonance, or seems to do so. The major disadvantage is that the tradition, with all its religious contents, tends to disappear or dissolve in the process of secularizing translation.

The inductive option is to turn to experience as the ground of all religious affirmation–one’s experience, to whatever extent this is possible, and the experience embodied in a particular range of traditions. The advantage of this option is open-mindedness and the freshness that usually comes from a non-authoritarian approach to questions of truth. The disadvantage is that open-mindedness tends to be linked to open-endedness, and this frustrates the deep religious hunger for certainty (p.125-156).

The last characteristic of modernity according to Berger is that time has special significance to members of modern societies in two ways. First, modern societies are oriented more toward the future than the past, a contrast to the time orientation of fundamentalists which looks backward and tries to return to the “old world” as they dream of. Second, in modern societies, specific units of time are an important foundation of everyday life. The importance of time increases to the point where people now claim that “time is money.”

In sum, Peter Berger sees modernization as human emancipation from tightly knit social communities in which traditional religious beliefs provided each person with a strong sense of belonging but little individual freedom. In modern societies, people have far more autonomy with regard to beliefs and actions; on the other side of the coin, the social ties that bind each person to others are typically less personal and enduring.

The above theories and ideas are the lenses with which the researcher approached the socio-religious realities of the sample Muslim migrants in the Quiapo area. In more ways than one, the thesis is the product of mutual dialogue between the researcher on the one hand and the literature and respondents, on the other.


Research Design

The research is designed to probe the level of Islamic fundamentalism among Muslim Filipinos in Metro Manila. Enlightened by the literature on Islamic revivalism and urban life, the proposed study will be an exploration of the religious views of sample Muslims in the Quiapo area and the ways urban life has affected them. It adopts a case study design. Figure 1 presents the analytic framework that guided the qualitative research, while Table 3 maps out the research modules.

Figure 1 portrays the different social and cultural environments between the Moro rural setting and the Metro Manila metropolis in the context of the history of Muslim struggles and state intervention in Mindanao. Due to economic difficulties and the need to seek a better life the Mindanao-based Muslims in the study migrated from the rural environment, bringing with them their social, cultural and political identities to the Quiapo area. In this area they are not only influenced by the existence of mosques and Islamic communities but also by the secular urban life and its modernity projects. The combination of the Moro’s tradition and religiosity with secular urban values is expected to result in the dynamics of Moro’s Islamic religiosity and their level of fundamentalism (the fusion of religion and politics/ the state), whether they tend to be more resistant (strong fundamentalist), moderate, or secularist.

Location of Study

Of the three Muslim settlements in Metro Manila (Quiapo, Taguig and Tandang Sora) , Quiapo is by far the biggest, most central and most commercial. It is therefore, the ideal site for the research (see Figure 2 for a map of the community). In particular, the field research was confined to two barangays (383 and 384) surrounding the Golden Mosque and the Islamic Center in Barangay 648, San Miguel, because they reflect the strong influences of both the mosque and market on the community. Technically the Islamic Center or Barangay 648 is not in Quiapo. It is however adjacent geographically to Quiapo because many Muslims from the Islamic Center are doing their businesses in Quiapo, spending long hours there and intermingling with residents. Thus, for purposes of this thesis, the Quiapo area encompasses San Miguel. The intermingling of a vibrant market or secular life with an equally powerful religious life around a major mosque makes the Quiapo situation a good field for research.

Sources of Data

Data gathering was done within 5 months, from October 2003 to February 2004. After seeking authorization to undertake the study in Quiapo, the researcher, with the assistance of an interpreter for the interviews, obtained data from three sources: key informants, direct observation and existing documents that were accessible to the researcher. The key informants included Muslim clerics (imam), Muslim scholars (ustadzs), government employees (if any), factory workers, politicians, professionals, traders and representatives of non-government organizations (NGOs). The secondary data included materials from ARMM (the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) office and Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA).

Two sets of respondents were interviewed for the study:

  • 25 key informants from Marawi consisting of high officials of the Mindanao State University including a dean, a lawyer sewing MNLF leader Nur Misuari, the director of a Muslim Center and so forth. Their ideas were sought to provide a background to the migration as well as the fundamentalist ideas carried by movements or translated in everyday life.
  • 41 key informants living in Muslim communities within thw Quiapo area composed the second set of respondents. Several criteria were used to select the key informants. First, they should have broad knowledge of Filipino Muslims and their problems. Second they should be actively immersed in the urban life of the community. Contextual information was also drawn from the neighboring Christians based on their position and knowledge of issues related to the Quiapo Muslims.

The composition of key informants appears in Table 4 below. It is important to note that while only 66 key informants were interviewed, many of the discussions were done in such a way that observers shared their own views in sessions that looked more like informal group discussions than straightforward interviews.

Data Collection Techniques

As a descriptive and exploratory study, the thesis obtained a wide range of information qualitatively through in-depth interviews, direct observation, and secondary data collection. The different data collection techniques complemented each other. Table 5 summarizes the data sources and techniques.

Research Instruments

Several instruments were prepared for this study. The in-depth interviews were guided by the questions in Appendix A while the direct observation used Appendix B as guide. In the process of data collection, the researcher used a tape recorder with permission from the respondents. Interviews were conducted in English, Malay, and Arabic languages. Malay and Arabic languages were later translated into English. It is also important to note that many of the informants were conversant in three languages.

Thesis Organization

This thesis consists of five chapters. Chapter I provides the introduction-the background of the study, the relevant literature that guided it and the thesis methodology. Chapter II gives a brief history of Islam in the Philippines, Philippine political Islam, and of the Quiapo area, the site of Muslim migrations in the post-war decades. Chapters III & IV describe aspects of the worldview of selected Filipino Muslims in Quiapo, particularly the level of their religious fundamentalism and the modernizing as well as other factors that have shaped its ideological expressions and political manifestations. Chapter V concludes the thesis and lists recommendations for future research.


Socio-religious activities

  1. History, formation and activities of the Mosques, Islamic school, Muslim organizations and OMA
  2. Leadership and solidarity and goals want to gain
  3. Social function, conflict engagement, forms of their struggles, participation in Philippine society at large


Business and daily activities

  1. Types of business and jobs
  2. Intensity and orientation of business and its solidarity ties
  3. Islamic morality in their business and works
  4. Influence of market and manila business culture, or Philippine government
  5. Influence of modernizing process and urban life


Islamic thoughts and discourses

  1. Characteristics and Changes of Islamic thoughts
  2. Influences of socio and cultural context in their thoughts
  3. Exploration of Islamic thoughts relating to the issues of: the concept of tahkimiyah (sovereignty), secular state Vs Islamic state, democracy and the issue of implementation of syariah / Islamic law, literlist-scripturalist, woman position, pluralism, jihad, nationhood, nationalism and the concept of ummah, Philippine government, Islam kaffah/ Finality of Islam, Islam and economy, and anti-Western/ issue of modern jahiliyya.
  4. Perception and point of view of Moros’ problem and agenda of struggle

Note: DO-Direct Observation; DI-In-Depth Interview; SDS-Secondary Data Collection

  1. Moro or Bangsamoro (Moro nation) has become an inspiration, a word that names a people’s shared identity and vision for a new nation. It used to be the case that Muslim Filipinos felt offended by the use of the term Moro but it has been reinterpreted in a positive rather than a negative view. Salah Jubair explained, “Moro was a tag chosen for him by his enemy and not himself, and was the result of animosity, warfare and resistance to foreign pressure. Filipino on the other hand, was initially the term applied for Spaniards born in the Philippines, and thus signified allegiance or subservience to Spain. Filipino was the child of colonialism, Moro was the offspring of anti-colonialism.” See Jubair, A Nation under Endless Tyranny, p.125. Moro identity had the following characteristics: it is anti colonial and inspired by a tradition of resistance; it is anti elite; it is distinctly Islamic; and it is rooted in a struggle for social justice. See Eric Gutierrez, The Re-Imagination of Bangsamoro in Rebels, Warlords, and Ulama, ed. Kristina Gaerlan and Mara Stankovitch (1999:312).
  2. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a political organization in the southern part of the Philippines, organized in the early 1970s by Nur Misuari with the intention of creating an independent “Moro Nation.” This led to the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines. Seeking an end to the hostilities, the Philippine government decided to hold peace talks in 1976. Unfortunately, both sides were unable to settle on an agreement so hostilities continued for the next two decades. As the hostilities continued, the group began to suffer from internal factionalism. Disagreements between moderates and conservatives arose after the reluctance of the MNLF to hold a violent insurgency. The more conservative Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was formed in 1981 when Salamat Hashem and his followers broke off from the MNLF. The basic difference between MNLF and MILF is that MNLF is more opened, nationalist oriented while MILF is less opened, Islamist oriented and still strongly believe in the struggle of an independent Bangsa Moro. For further study on these groups see Gowing (1979), Gutierrez (1999) and Jubair (1997).
  3. Abu Sayyaf (meaning “sword bearer” in Arabic) was formed by Abu Bakar janjalani in 1990. He recruited two groups into Abu Sayyaf: dissidents from the MNLF and Filipinos who had fought with the Afghan mujaheddin rebels against the Soviet Union. Abu Sayyaf is a well known bandit group who staged ambushes, bombings, kidnapings,and executions, mainly against Filipino Christians and foreigners on Basilan and the west coast of Mindanao. For a detailed account on Abu sayyaf See Larry Niksch (2007), and Abuza, Zachary (2003).

  4. Further explanations on causes of fundamentalist movements in Egypt are elaborated in the Review of Related Literature. See also Barry Rubin, Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1990).
  5. These booklets were authored by leading evangelical churchmen and were circulated free of charge among clergymen and seminarians. See
  6. Ibid. Other Arabic terms to name the Islamic fundamentalists are: Islamiyyun (Islamists), Ashliyyun (authentic Muslims), Salafiyyun (traditionalists), and Muthatharrif (extremists).
  7. For a more detailed explanation by Gellner on relativism, see p.22-40, and for rationalist fundamentalism see p. 80-96
  8. See Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddima, trans. F. Rosenthal, London: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1985; D. Hume, The Natural History of Christianity, in Hume on Religion, ed. R. Wollheim, London: Collins, 1963
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