MANILA, Philippines—Dozens of Filipino Muslims gathered at the Golden Mosque of Quiapo Friday in what was touted as a funeral service and sympathy march in honor of Osama Bin Laden, a man whose death inspired celebrations in many other places.
In the sweltering midday heat, the Filipino Muslims conveyed their sympathies over the fate of Bin Laden, the fallen terror leader considered in some Islamic fundamentalist circles as a holy warrior, and expressed outrage at the way he had been treated.
“To us, Bin Laden is a holy warrior…. He is a Muslim. Thus he is a brother to all Muslims. We do not believe what they are accusing him of,” said Yassin Ebrahim, president of the Muslim Town Public Library.
The group denounced, in particular, his burial at sea by the United States troops who killed him in a raid on his Pakistan hideout last Monday. The move was presumed to have been intended to remove the possibility of a shrine for his supporters.
“To us, it was a great disrespect,” Ebrahim told the Inquirer.
After noontime prayers, the Muslim faithful sang praises for the fallen al-Qaida leader and heaped vitriol on America, which had hunted Bin Laden for almost a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, the worst ever terrorist act on US soil.
Sheikh Jamil Yahya, chair of the Bangsamoro Supreme Council of the Ulama, led the prayers and delivered the khutbah, or sermon.
The Manila police initially estimated the mostly male crowd at 700. But by noon, the mosque, with a capacity of 5,000, was filled with members of the barefoot congregation. Dozens of others sat on the floor outside. The women in attendance wore shawls, while some of the men wore kupia, or traditional caps for worship.
The police deployed thrice the usual number of patrols, with 30 within the mosque compound and the vicinity.
Ebrahim said that when news of Bin Laden’s killing first broke, the common sentiment among the Muslim enclave in the chaotic and congested Quiapo district was sympathy for Bin Laden and annoyance at America.
“We were annoyed…. The Muslim leaders had discussions about it until we decided on this course of action,” Ebrahim said.
The mosque, one of the largest in Manila, attracts hundreds of Muslim residents of Quiapo on Fridays, with usual estimates pegged at 500. Friday noontime worship, among the most important of everyday prayers, is a requirement among the Muslim men but not the women.
After the memorial, the Muslims were to stage a “sympathy march-rally” from the mosque to the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard.