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MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT. To safeguard Moro (Philippine Muslim) interests and cultural identity, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was formed in 1969 by a group of young, progressive Moros headed by Nur Misuari, a former student activist at the University of the Philippines. The formation of the MNLF was in response to the historical manifestation of religious and political animosity between the Christian majority and Muslim minority in the Philippines. In addition, the acceleration of national integration and development programs during the 1950s and 1 960s resulted in an influx of Christian settlers into Moroland (Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan). The Moros suspected the government’s motives behind integration and feared that it intended to destroy their Muslim community (ummah).


When President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in the Philippines in 1972, the conflict between Christians and Muslims intensified. The MNLF was able to obtain the support of Muslim leaders such as President Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi of Libya and Tun Mustapha Harun, Chief Minister of Sabah, Malaysia. In 1974, the Central Committee of the MNLF issued a manifesto declaring its intention to establish an independent Bangsa Moro Republik. With the support of Libya and other member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the MNLF was able to escalate the war during 1973-1976, which forced the Philippine government to sign the Tripoli Agreement conceding full autonomy to Moroland.

The rapid ascendancy of the MNLF, however, can be attributed not so much to effective organization as to a fortuitous combination of circumstances, including the prior existence of various Moro armed groups fighting against the government and the support of several Muslim countries in response to the plight of the Moros. The MNLF was a loosely knit organization and had been unable to establish a clear chain of command. The thirteen-member Central Committee contented itself with setting broad policy outlines.

The toll of the armed conflict was tremendous, and the MNLF’s success was short-lived. The Philippine government failed to abide by the Tripoli Agreement, the ceasefire collapsed, and fighting resumed in late 1977. In the same year, Misuari’s leadership was challenged and other factions-the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and MNLF-Reformist Group (MNLFRG)–emerged. Although the divisions within the movement reflected underlying ideological and ethnic differences, the various factions were founded on the basis of a common ideology, Islam. The MNLF is more socially progressive, with strong support from the ethnic Tausug, while the MNLF-RG draws its support from the more conservative Maranao, and the MILF from religious and conservative elements of the Maguindanao.

Under President Corazon Aquino, the Philippine government again failed to proceed with a negotiated settlement on the basis of the Tripoli Agreement but was committed to a constitutional provision granting limited autonomy to the Muslims in the south. The MNLF, however, dissociated itself from the institution of the autonomy provisions. Rather, it called on the different Moro factions to unite in a renewed armed struggle for an independent Moro state.

The MNLF-led movement must be credited with some success in terms of the recognition achieved for Muslims. For example, Muslims have been able to extract concessions from successive Philippine governments under Marcos and Aquino. These include the official recognition of Islam and Moro culture, the establishment of shari`ah courts, and the granting of limited autonomy. The Muslims have also received educational and economic assistance from Muslim countries, and the MNLF itself has been given observer status in the OIC.

[See also Philippines.]


Che Man, W. K. Muslim Separatism: The Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Southern Thailand. Singapore and New York, 1990. Comparative study of the Moro and the Malay separatist struggle.

Gowing, Peter G. Muslim Filipinos: Heritage and Horizon. Quezon City, 1979. Comprehensive overview of the contemporary Moro community and its problems within the larger Philippine society. Majul, Cesar Adib. Muslims in the Philippines. Quezon City, 1973. Excellent account of the history of Muslims in the Philippines.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/moro-national-liberation-front/

  • writerPosted On: August 14, 2014
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