IT’S been 10 years since the Muslim holiday of Eid’l Fitr, or the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, was declared a nationwide holiday under a law passed by Congress, on the initiative of the Arroyo administration.
The Eid, also known as Hari Raya Puasa in Malay, is a major worldwide Islamic feast, as important as the Christian Lent, Holy Week and Easter cycle. Eid celebrates the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting observed by Muslims, which they take as an occasion to give thanks to Allah. Like the Christian Lent, it is also marked by charity and almsgiving. Both are moveable feasts and speak of the cosmological moorings of these two great religions.
The nationwide celebration of Eid’l Fitr is a testament to the maturity of Philippine society. Filipinos now more than ever recognize that our society, while dominated by a Christian majority, is a multicultural and multi-religious one. It also speaks of the advances of the inter-religious dialogue fostered for decades by the bishops and ulama. The Muslim is no longer the “other.”
This year, the Eid resonates even more deeply amid the destruction of the country’s most important Muslim city, Marawi, the capital and the largest city of Lanao del Sur province that is also often referred to as the “Islamic City.” The month-long siege of Marawi City by the Maute group has all but destroyed the once beautiful city known for its high elevation, cool weather and rolling terrain. The siege has prevented the residents of Marawi from observing Ramadan and Eid in their home communities.
President Rodrigo Duterte apologized last week to Marawi City for his declaration of martial law following the Maute attack, and rightly so. It may have been a way of making amends for his earlier statement blaming the wider Maranao population for allowing the Islamic State-linked Maute group for gaining a foothold in the city and the province. But Duterte’s apology, delivered in his usual extemporaneous style, was a sincere one, and by all indications was accepted by its intended recipients. The absence of recrimination from the Muslims of Marawi is an indication that they have understood the necessity of using extraordinary force to crush terrorism in Mindanao.
Malacañang, it should be noted, has doubled the budget to rebuild war-torn Marawi to P20 billion from P10 billion. It would a fitting gesture for the President this Eid to go beyond his apology and ensure the speedy reconstruction of Marawi as soon as the fighting ends. A spirit of charity should motivate the implementers and contractors of the Marawi reconstruction to ensure that these projects are efficiently rolled out, free of any form of corruption.
Filipinos, Christian and Muslim, meanwhile, should reflect this Eid on their shared values as a peaceful and God-fearing people. It may be linked to the Islamic State, but the Maute group is anything but Islamic, just as the IS has been rejected by the mainline adherents of Islam. The call to action this Eid is for both communities to again join forces to ensure that the alien ideologies of extremism and terrorism have no place in Philippine society.