The Islamic State terrorists overrunning southern Marawi, Philippines, are reportedly forcing Christians and Muslims alike to recite Muslim prayers or face certain death, a tactic jihadists have employed in similar raids around the world.
Multiple eyewitness reports say the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are demanding civilian recite Quranic verses and Islamic prayers to prove their religious purity. Philippine police found a pile of bodies outside Marawi labeled “munafiq,” the Arabic word for “hypocrite.”
“They don’t usually call Christians munafiq, but kuff’r, which means unbeliever,” an unidentified Philippine army imam told the Philippine Star. “Munafiq is their label for Muslims who are for them are not religiously professing Islam, like not being able to recite some important verses in the Qur’an.”
Philippine police have found nineteen civilian bodies so far – eight, including a child, were found near Mindanao State University. Police found another eight in a ravine with a piece of paper on one of the bodies labeling them “munafiq.” The Philippine Star reported the total number of civilian deaths at nineteen on Monday, without specifying the location and fate of the other three, only that police “are also not discounting the possibility that some of them were killed in the crossfire.”
Civilians who have escaped the terrorists have told news outlets that they survived only because of their knowledge of Islamic prayers. “They did not kill me because I was able to recite a Muslim prayer. The others were not so lucky,” Myrna Bandung, a Catholic woman, told journalists, Reuters reports. Another eyewitness, identified as Patiok Kasim, told the Philippine Star the terrorists were forcing civilians to “recite random verses in the Quran to determine whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims.”
“There are Maranaws who haven’t perfectly memorized the verses they were asked to recite at gunpoint,” he said, suggesting some of those killed were Muslims who failed the test.
UPI reports that Christian eyewitnesses say Muslims fleeing the massacre frantically attempted to teach Christians Islamic prayers to know in the event of being caught in a jihadist roadblock.
The Quranic test is an increasingly common tactic among jihadists conducting raids around the world. During the 2016 siege of a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh, terrorists demanded all restaurant patrons and employees recite the Quran by memory. Among the survivors was a Hindu chef who did not reveal his last name and recited the Quran to the terrorists.
A year before that attack, in Garissa, Kenya, the jihadist organization al-Shabaab massacred nearly 150 students at Garissa University. The group conducted a raid on the campus, demanding students recite Quranic verses or be shot to death.
Unlike Bangladesh and Kenya, the Philippines boasts one of the largest Christian populations in the world, making it a particularly alarming location for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Only about 5 percent of Philippine citizens identify as Muslim, while an estimated 96 percent identify as Christian, mostly Catholic. Marawi is an exception, the nation’s only “Islamic City,” making it an apt location for Islamist/jihadist leaders to use as a headquarters.
The Islamic insurgency in Marawi, a city of an estimated 200,000 on southern Mindanao island, began last week as Maute group terrorists attacked police conducting a raid on a location believed to house Isnilon Hapilon, the head of Abu Sayyaf. While once independent groups, the jihadists appear to have joined forces as a result of their allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Maute also identifies as “Daulah Islamiyah” (“Islamic State”).
Following the failed raid on Hapilon’s headquarters, Maute terrorists overran the city, abducting Christian clergy, freeing over 100 jihadists held in local prisons, and flying the Islamic State flag over the city’s mosques.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who served as mayor of Mindanao’s Davao City for 22 years, rapidly declared a 60-day martial law period and instructed the military to “spare no one” in eradicating the jihadists. Duterte has warned for months that the slow collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would make the Philippines a desirable target for defeated jihadists; police have confirmed that foreign nationals are participating in the raid on Marawi.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines appear increasingly confident they will end the siege of Marawi. “We believe they’re now low on ammunition and food. Compared to the initial days, there has been increasingly less resistance from the militants within Marawi,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said on Sunday.