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Demolition of Mosque a Ticking Time Bomb Says Archbishop Cruz
13 August 2009. The government’s plan to demolish a Mosque is a ticking time bomb, a high-ranking Catholic bishop said in reaction to reports that the Grand Mosque located in Pasay City will be demolished this month to make way for commercial establishments including casinos.
In a statement, Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said, “The demolition of the mosque is a ticking time bomb because it will cascade into a mishmash of complicated and sensitive religious, cultural and social issues.”
“Destroying a religious symbol in place of a symbol of vice and greed is the height of arrogance and brazenness. It is a violation of Christian and Muslim religious tradition and beliefs,” said Archbishop Cruz, also a known anti-gambling crusader.
According to Islamic law, it is forbidden to destroy houses of worships, including Christian Churches.
“We told the government that we will not leave the mosque. If declaring holy war is the only way to preserve our mosque, we will do it,” said Abdelmanan Tanandato, president of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Nademolis sa Roxas Boulevard.
Imam Abdul Fatah Sarip said, “If we die during Ramadan for defending our holy mosque, it means we will be rewarded twice by Allah. This gives us more courage to fight for our place of worship even it means our death. Unless the government heeds our call, blood may possibly flow on this disputed land.”
In a May 26 memorandum to Philippine Recalamation Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications and Office of Muslim Affairs, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita informed government agencies of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s instruction to relocate the entire Mosque structure to a proposed relocation site adjacent to the Coastal Road. The memorandum said the reclaimed land must be cleared to give way to Southwest Public Transport Intermodal Center (Metrotrans).
However, it was reported to Muslim residents that the land, where the Muslim community and mosque are situated, is very valuable and destined for commerce, luxury housing and casinos.
The Task Force Anti-Eviction composed of various people’s organizations and NGOs such as the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM) and Community Organization of the Philippine Enterprise (COPE) Foundation said Ramadan is only eight days away and yet the government is ignoring the plea of the Muslim community, civil society organizations and international human rights group to stop its plan to demolish the mosque.
“Evictions are a common problem between government and urban poor people. However, in this particular case, the issue has become complicated as it is in direct conflict with the Muslim community’s religious and cultural beliefs,” said Ted Añana, deputy coordinator of UPA.
“The least that the government can do is to spare this mosque from forced eviction. The government should be reasonable, judicious, and considerate in resolving the problem since this issue or the kind of action to be taken is very sensitive in view of its religious, social, cultural, legal and political ramifications that will certainly have long lasting national and international consequences,” Añana added.
Archbishop Cruz agreed. “Considering the anger and disgust of many Filipino Christians towards the ruling administration, the last thing it needs is the ire and hatred of Filipino Muslims,” Cruz concluded.
Some 14 demolition incidents were monitored in 2008 which affected 2,411 families, according to the UPA. The anti-eviction group is lobbying for the House Bill No. 6675 filed by Aba-Ako Party-List Rep. Leonardo Montemayor. The bill is entitled to “An act securing the rights of urban poor beneficiaries to proper housing amending for the purpose Republic Act 7279 otherwise known as Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA).” It seeks to amend several sections of UDHA to strengthen the protected right of every Filipino to a decent home, and provide sanctions upon those who violate the mandate of the law.