Category: Comparison Essay


Islam in the Philippines and Indonesia differs from the religious traditions of other countries with an extremist mood of society. Muslims living in South-East Asia demonstrate tolerance towards other religions and do not strictly follow the requirements of Islam. The differences among the Muslims in Southeast Asia and the Middle East are conditioned by social, cultural, and economic conditions. Different perceptions of the Islamic religion and its adaptation to the local culture divide these countries. Islam plays an important historical and economic role in the development of the Philippines and Indonesia, but each of these countries has the opposite perception of the Muslim faith.

Historical Background

Islam is not the dominant faith of the Philippines. It was imported to the country by Arabian merchants in 1210 and partly allocated on the particular island in the form of two sultanates. Indonesia faced Islam in the same century. Islam expansion was rapid and ubiquitous for Indonesia. The stimulus for Islam popularity in the Philippines was a desire of the inhabitants to save cultural identity, while an imperceptible penetration of Islam in the social environment of Indonesia was caused by economic conditions.

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The Spaniards invaded the Philippines in the 16th century and found Muslim state formations on Mindanao Island with the established hierarchy and relatively developed social organization. The Spaniards attempted to subjugate the Muslims and impose Christianity in an offensive manner. This treatment of the Spaniards only strengthened the basic role of Islam as the main ideology facilitating the repulsion to the colonial conquests. However, the Spaniards split the population into the Christianized Filipinos, north-located inhabitants, and the Muslims inhabiting the south of the Philippines.

Muslim religion of Indonesia was not spread by wars, but it started due to the contribution of the merchants, too. The first Muslim merchants who arrived in Indonesia did not intend to spread Islam in comparison to the intentions of the foreigners to capture the Mindanao. Muslim merchants were simply engaged in trade operations. The residing population of old Indonesia worshiped idols.

The next stage of Islam reformation in the Philippines’ history dealt with the arrival of the Americans in the late 19th century. They committed resettlement of the Christians in Mindanao, where they exploited natural resources of the island. Later, foreign companies also gradually penetrated the country and captured large territories. As a result, the Muslims lost control over their prior lands. This process continued even after the attainment of independence by the Philippines.

The Muslim population of Mindanao defended their religious identity from the visiting business representatives. Prolonged negotiations and offers initiated by the country’s government led to the fact that an ultimate peace agreement on the establishment of the autonomous Muslim Mindanao was signed in 1996 and brokered by Indonesia. The President of the Philippines and a chairman of the island’s leading organization discussed the planned measures for further development of the Mindanao. The government of the Muslim island has developed the Islamic education system based on the Koran’s precepts and has used Arabic to support interethnic communication with other Filipinos.

A true economic explanation of Islam introduction connects namely with trade as a decisive factor of influence on the development of Islam in Indonesia. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, one of the main sources of income of Malay Archipelago was trade. In order to increase the benefits and income level, local rulers were interested in the involvement of the greater number of Muslim merchants in the ports. Furthermore, Islam adoption has raised the prestige of the rulers in the opinion of local citizens as a ruler of the country has become God’s shadow in accordance with the Islam canons. Another reason for Islam adoption was the striving of coastal principalities to grow due to international trade. Easy acceptance of the Prophet religion by the Indonesians meant the right to obtain additional preferences and quotas in trade with Indian and Arab merchants.

The Muslims are about 5% of the common population of the Philippines and live mainly in the south. It should be noted that the relations between the representatives of Islam, Catholicism, and Christianity are strained due to the historic past. In addition, the desire of the Muslims to return certain forms of statehood intensifies this confrontation.

The Muslims are about 5% of the common population of the Philippines and live mainly in the south. It should be noted that the relations between the representatives of Islam, Catholicism, and Christianity are strained due to the historic past. In addition, the desire of the Muslims to return certain forms of statehood intensifies this confrontation.

In spite of the historical evidence of Islam adoption by the Indonesians, the fact remains that Islam became the leading religion in the country that is geographically located in the place distant from the centers of the Muslim religion origin. Particularly, the Southeast Asia where Indonesia is located has religious roots in Hindu and Buddhist civilizations. Modern Indonesia remains the world’s leader by the number of the Muslim population. Approximately 250 million residents of the country are the followers of Islam.

After the comparison of the historical roots of the emergence and spread of Islam in the Philippines and Indonesia, it can be concluded that the common factors having contributed to Islam development in these societies are linked to the economy. Different socio-cultural, natural, and economic conditions of these countries were submitted to the outside influences. Although the Philippines already had Islamic beginnings before the arrival of foreign merchants, Indonesia was also accustomed to Islam in the same manner. The first and second historical examples demonstrate that Islam was firmly established in both countries. When this religion was tried to be eradicated in the Philippines, Indonesia adopted new religious norms to stimulate economic growth. However, the autonomous island of the Philippines also had the opportunity for development promotion on the basis of the religious views distinguished from the common part of the country’s population.

Peculiarities of Islam Perception

The main peculiarity of Islamization of Indonesia is multiethnicity. Over 350 nationalities located in Indonesia are loyal to Islam. They bind and supplement it with the ethical features inherent to specific living conditions. Digestion of religious knowledge by each ethnic group of Indonesia was not conducted by simple copying only but the creative review of the religious traditions and their adaption to the historical experience and specific conditions of the region. The Indonesians never imitate the Koran provisions. For example, Islam of the Western Indonesians absorbed the law heritage; Java’s Islam faced the Hindu and Buddhist legacy; Muslim religion of Sulawesi assimilated local animistic beliefs and worship. Furthermore, Islam’s penetration in various regions of modern Indonesia differed by depth.

The historical path of the Philippines led to the confrontation of the representatives of Islam and other religions, namely Christianity. This opposition concerns the ethnic issue associated with the nation’s formation. Modern Muslims of Mindanao do not concern the Philippines as the country of their origin due to the difference in religious adherence.

Islamic population of the Philippines continued to struggle for their cultural identity and authenticity of religion. Therefore, Islam became the symbol and source of energy for the defense of their ethical positions and thus acquired an important value of the historical heritage, which inextricably involves significant efforts of their ancestors to win independence and peace for the people and their Muslim religion. Their attitude to Islamic is steady and respective. Therefore, they retain the traditions and views of Islam according to the values and provisions of the Koran.

Perception of the Koran by the Indonesians has brought spiritual focus, devotion, honesty, and respect for authorities to the ideological system of the Indonesians. In turn, creative review of the Muslim traditions by indigenous Indonesians enriched the Middle Eastern culture with the elements of religious and spiritual traditions of the Indonesian community. These elements include the high tolerance to religions, harmonious love of nature, respect of ancestors, and a heightened sense of social community. These qualities are highly appreciated by traditional Islam. The Muslim faith was organically intertwined in the authentic culture of Indonesians. Islam has become an internal element of the social system of Indonesia.

Islam is supported by the existence of Muslim schools in the Philippines. However, this positive fact for the Islamic population is accompanied by the study of the English and Philippine languages for the integration of the Muslims into the Philippines’ community. The educational system of the country is directed at assimilation of the national identity of the citizens. The rebellious features of Mindanao have become increasingly stronger over the years. This obstacle incites religious and ethnic conflicts. The existence of extremist groups equates them with the peaceful Muslims in the opinions of the rest of Filipinos. The confessional question is still accompanied by a belligerent approach.

Nevertheless, Islam is one of the main factors that differ from the views of Muslims and Catholics in the Philippines. Faith is an important value for the Muslims defending it for several centuries. Social and military events of the island affect the residents of the Islamic faith. This self-contained part of the Philippines’ population is already used to binding social and political events of the country and its autonomy to the Muslim ethnic features. It is important to note that the Muslims of Mindanao try to attract the attention of the world to the Muslim community and support national identity and Islamic adherence of the inhabitants of the island. The Philippines do not share the Is