THE word Bangsamoro has evolved after several years of peace agreements with the Philippine government. The need to re-define it is a primary importance for our people to understand why we need to support the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

I believe that the Filipino Muslims and the Bangsamoro people will find itself fundamentally transformed once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed in Congress and ratified by the people within the Bangsamoro geographical areas.

On the one hand, the Muslim Filipinos who has a different set of historical identity and do not ascribed to be Bangsamoro will then recognized that the our past has several different historical realities on the ground. Most of the Muslim elite had integrated well enough since the time of the American occupation. These elites have controlled the political administration of Muslim Mindanao. They have the privilege to control the political economy for several decades.

On the other hand, the Bangsamoro will now be given a chance to show how they can govern and uplift the lives of our people. One of the goals of the BBL is to level the political playing field.

These thoughts came to my mind in the past several weeks as I listened to key political leaders in Mindanao during the Public Hearings and Consultations of the Senate and Congressional Sub Committees on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Admittedly, we have a diverse population of Muslims. Some Filipino Muslims who have been in power since the American time and Marcos regime, cannot fully associate themselves in the Bangsamoro identity. For them, we can be better off if we just simply recognized that we are Filipinos and strive hard to be better citizens of our country.

But this way of looking at the identities of the Muslims have been challenged several times by the Muslim masses who ascribed to the Bangsamoro identity. These challenges were often bloody and led to the destruction of properties and lives of the people in Mindanao. Because of challenging the status quo (being a Filipino Muslims), the two Moro Fronts - Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were able to have signed peace agreements with the Philippine government.

The BBL that we drafted in the Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission aimed to clearly define the meaning of the word Bangsamoro. The word Bangsamoro in the BBL refers to the "identity" of the people; the political entity that will replace the ARMM; and, the government or the administrative region that will replace the ARMM. The Bangsamoro is a secular autonomous government mandated by the Constitution. The Bangsamoro is not an Islamic state.

Moreover, in the BTC Draft BBL, Article II Section 1 provides Bangsmoro People. - Those who, at the advent of the Spaniards, were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed or of full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription."

Section 2 also provides Freedom of Choice. - The freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall be respected. There shall be no discrimination on the basis of identity, religion, and ethnicity. The word Bangsamoro also refers to the Islamized indigenous peoples in Mindanao like the Maguindanaon, Tausugs, Meranaw, Sama, Iranun, Yakan, Molbog, Sangil, Kagan, Sama di laut. The Bangsamoro is not a national identity compared to the Filipino identity. The Bangsamoro are Filipinos.

The BBL aims to reconcile both the Filipino and Bangsamoro identities in order to promote social justice and the economic welfare of the underprivileged in Mindanao. Hence, the word Bangsamoro is not similar to the negative concept of "asabiyyah". The word "asabiyyah" refers to "social solidarity with an emphasis on group consciousness, cohesiveness, and unity". Moreover, Ibn Khaldun, an Islamic scholar during the time of the glory days of Andalusia, defined asabiyyah as an Arabic word meaning originally 'spirit of kinship' (the 'asaba are male relations in the male line) in the family or tribe.

This concept was used in the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as contrary to the spirit of Islam. Recent scholars translate this as 'esprit de corps' (de Slane), by 'Gemeinsinn' and even by 'Nationalitaetsidee' (Kremer), which is an unjustified modernism concept. The case of the word Bangsamoro as an identity was a product of natural character, in the sense that derived from tribal consanguinity of the 13 Islamized groups in Mindanao. At first, it had a great importance in the formation of an effective 'asabiyya’.

The concept of asabiyyah is best described in an article, The Fall of Granada, by Prof. Dr. Nazeer Ahmed, PhD. The article mentioned, "According to Ibn Khaldun power is political. Asabiyah fosters political and military unity and enables the nomads to overcome the sedentary city dwellers. In time, the nomads themselves settle down and become city dwellers and in turn, are overcome by a new wave of nomads. Asabiyah thus becomes the key to political power and the building block of nations and empires. It is the glue, the cement that binds people together and demands and obtains the sacrifice of individuals for monumental tasks. When asabiyah is diluted or destroyed, civilizations lose the glue that holds them together and they disintegrate."

Muslims are reminded that Islam is against asabiyah based on race, color or national origin. The Holy Qur'an mentioned, "We made you into nations and tribes so that you may recognize and know each other-not that you may despise each other" Qur'an, 49:13). Thus, as profoundly explained by Dr. Ahmed, "Islam seeks to create a global community "enjoining what is noble, forbidding what is wrong and believing only in Allah". Such a community transcends the asabiyah based on race, region or national origin and embraces all nations."

Dr. Ahmed further explained, "In a philosophical sense, asabiyah frees the individual from his or her ego and places the walls of egocentric exclusion at the national or racial boundary. The prison of race, tribe, or nation replaces the prison of the ego. Islam, by contrast, liberates humankind not only from the individual ego, but also from the prison of racism, tribalism, and nationalism. The outward limits of the Islamic civilization are set at the global community. All races, tribes and nations are included in this civilization."

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission recognized the problem of misplaced "nationalism". Because of this, we made sure that Bangsamoro will be inclusive and embraces the concept of global community as a Bangsamoro within the Philippine Republic.