Police and immigration officers in the Philippines arrested Canadian cleric, Dr Bilal Philips last Sunday, on suspicion of having links with radical extremist groups.
Dr Philips was delivering a public lecture on “Raising Righteous Children” in the Sunny Point Hotel auditorium when he was taken in for questioning, and subsequently held in custody by authorities.
Chief Supt. Wendy Rosario, director of the Philippine National Police in Southern Mindanao, said the 68-year-old scholar was considered a threat to national security.
Rosario said Philips was questioned for his possible links with ISIS, noting that his records were enough to raise concerns, as Philips was also banned in Kenya, Germany, Australia, UK and the US.
Authorities could not say when Philips arrived in the Philippines but they believe that he has been going in and out of the country since he is married to a Filipina.
On Monday, immigration prosecutor, Homer Arellano issued a deportation charge against Philips, who was born in Jamaica but spent several years in the Middle East as an Islamic teacher.
The charge stated that the presence of Philips in the Philippines “poses risks to public safety.” The lawyers of Philips have filed an application for his voluntary exit.
In an online article posted in March, Philips admitted to meeting Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law while he was conducting dawah or Islamic teaching in the Philippines.
“I do not know him [Osama]; neither have I ever met him but when I was doing dawah in the Philippines his brother-in-law happened to have a dawah centre which I used to go to and give dawah, I knew him,” he was also quoted as saying.
He added that he was linked to Bin Laden because he knew his brother-in-law, but denied that he knew the former al-Qaeda head personally.
Bilal Phillips’ response
Dr Bilal Philips posted the following statement on his official Facebook page on Wednesday 10th September:
I would first like to thank you for all your prayers and various positive expressions of care, concern and support. I’m happy to inform you that I am safe and well-treated in Davao City immigration custody, as my request for voluntary deportation is being processed.
Though I appreciate your rallies and demonstrations of support in Marawi city, Zamboanga and elsewhere, I advise you all to keep calm and not let your genuine expressions of support spiral out of control and degenerate into wanton destruction of property and the loss of life and limb.
Please allow the due process of law to take its course. The false allegations and misunderstandings circulating in the media will be tackled legally in order to clear my name and lift the ban on any future visits to the Philippines – God willing. There is sufficient evidence to prove my innocence in my hundreds of YouTube video lectures and khutbahs, and over 50 published books.
As to me being on the no-fly black list of America, I join the ranks of Nelson Mandela who was put on it while he was in Robbin Island, and he remained on the list as president of South Africa until he won the Nobel Peace Prize for the same reason he was put on the list in the first place. Because of a narrow policy of the US and inhospitable atmosphere, I prefer not to go to US like one your local public official in Davao City who shunned going to the US for medical treatment. Not to mention the actual meaning of American label placed on me as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 1993 attempted bombing of the World Trade Centre. In normal language, “un-indicted” simply means “no charges have been filed against me due to lack of evidence”, and “co-conspirator” means “guilty by association”, that someone who the authorities arrested had my name in their telephone book, or they were seen shaking hands with me, or they prayed next to me in a mosque, etc.
Regarding the British 3-year ban, based on a statement taken out of context from a video program originally made in 1995 and rebroadcast along with my other programs continuously on Sharjah TV, UAE, since 2003, it has already been successfully demonstrated to Canadian Immigration authorities that I was misquoted. The ban in Australia follows the American lead blindly and the ban in Kenya also blindly follows the British ban. As for the German lifetime ban unilaterally issued by the Mayor of Frankfurt, it was thrown out of court in Germany last year. The Mayor’s appeal was also rejected by the higher courts, he was made to cover all court costs and the ban was lifted. I was not banned or deported from Bangladesh earlier this year as in commonly falsely reported. I entered the country and left on my own will.
Sensational journalism has also played a major role in demonizing me, like that of the daily newspaper which plastered a picture of me on their front page, Sept. 10th issue, with the heading “Suspected Terrorist Arrested”. The related article contained a series of irresponsible, inflammatory and inaccurate statements from PRO 11 Regional Director Chief Superintendent Wendy G. Rosario. Superintendent Rosario was quoted as saying that I was considered a person of interest because of alleged links to a terrorist group outside the country. I have never had any links nor have I ever been accused of having links to any terrorist group.
Superintendent Rosario further stated that I was invited for questioning by the police while lecturing in a mosque which is inaccurate, as I did not lecture in any mosque in Davao, my lecture on “Raising Righteous Children” was a public lecture in the Sunny Point Hotel auditorium attended by Muslims and non-Muslims. He then stated that I was prevented from lecturing in Zamboanga scheduled for the 4 and 5th (correctly the 5th and 6th) which is untrue. I personally decided not to go to Zamboanga when the Mayor of Zamboanga withdrew her support by cancelling the venue and her provision of government security forces. She also requested the Department of Justice to prevent me from coming there. The organizers in Zamboanga requested me to come anyway, assuring security from ex-generals from their ranks, but I thought it prudent not to go since the mayor was personally opposed.
He then stated that the Bureau of Immigration issued a blacklist order against me on the 4th September, also untrue. They issued the order on the 5th at the request of the Mayor of Zamboanga, and I arrived in the country on the 4th. He then mentioned that there was a report that I was already blacklisted while failing to mention that the previous blacklisting was lifted by the government. Such irresponsible sensational journalism has been identified by the UK government’s Runnymede Report as a major source of Islamophobia. I trust and pray that the majority of the people of the Philippines will not tolerate such attitude.
It is very sad that lecturers and speakers like myself who call to Islamic moderation and oppose extremism, terrorism, indiscriminate violence and revolt, are blocked from conveying this peaceful message to Muslim minority communities. We recognize that extremism is a product of ignorance of true Islamic teachings so we promote in our lectures the acquisition of correct knowledge and the practice of Islam’s authentic teachings. In banning and demonizing us, they have created a vacuum of information which continues to be exploited and filled by extremist elements who easily recruit youthful impressionable followers with emotional messages to their savage, violent and merciless unIslamic methodologies and ideologies.
I have always been a proponent of peaceful solutions to our problems as you all know, the motto of my university (Islamic Online University.com) is “Changing the Nation Through Education”. Please be an active part of this prophetic methodology for change by joining the ranks of over 180,000 registered students in my university, most of whom are studying free of any charge in the free Islamic Studies Diploma program.”
Dr Bilal Philips has nearly 2 million “likes” on his Facebook page and 106,000 followers on Twitter.