Islam in Mindanao & Sulu

Carpenter, Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, Philippine Islands,  from 1913-1920, with the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II.

I will have more to say, but at this time, with all the anti-Muslim hysteria going on here in the States, I just want something posted.  I grew up with Islam, perhaps not in a usual way, but the feeling was always that of equality among all people.

The Sultan and Carpenter signed a treaty in 1915 in which the Sultan recognized the sovereignty of the United States of America.   For that at present, see Mehol K Sadain’sSULU TREATIES.


The House of Representatives, 75 Congress 1937, passed a bill granting Carpenter an annuity for his more than 20 years work with the American occupation of the PI.  Report No. 873 , accompanying S. 1699 relates some of his work with Muslims.  After the death of General Lawton on the battlefield, Carpenter was on the staff of John C. Bates.  Bates concluded the first American treaty with the Sultan of Sulu, August 20, 1899. In March 1900 Carpenter was an interpreter with Bates in negotiations with various insurgent leaders “in what later became the Moro Province.”

At present I have more research to do on how Carpenter came to be appointed Governor of the Dept. of Mindanao and Sulu.  In 1912 the Democrats with Woodrow Wilson won the White House and a Democrat, Francis Burton Harrison, replaced Republican W. Cameron Forbes as Governor-General of the Islands. Harrison appointed Carpenter as Governor of the Moro Province.  Some sources suggested that certain people may have wanted him out of Manila and his post as Executive Secretary of the Philippine Commission.  There is evidence that Generals Bell and Pershing wanted him to take the position, possibly to free up US Army troops after the massacre of Bagsag in June 1913.  Carpenter did not want the position, as former President Wm Howard Taft pointed out several times in the NEW YORK TIMES, due to is health. Carpenter took up the position in December of 1913.

The Congressional Report contains this paragraph:

Through my personal relations with Mohammedan leaders generally throughout Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, successfully suppressed “Holy War” propaganda and deported its emissaries, thereby avoiding uprisings and less manifest opposition to Government, notwithstanding serious disturbances of public order that occurred in the contiguous territory of British North Borneo and in Singapore.  Peace was maintained in the former Moro Province from 1914 on through the period of the World War without expense to the United States Government or loss of American prestige which would have cost many years to regain.

Maximo Kalaw, an associate of Manuel L. Quezon, wrote in the 1919 edition of the Journal of International Relations,  “One of the strongest objections to the independence of the Philippines has been the so-called non-Christian problem. The most numerous of these non- Christian people are the Moros, who inhabit the Sulu Archipelago and certain parts of Mindanao. “

Carpenter’s policy was directed towards Filipino independence, and with the Moros following the advice of Najeeb Saleeby in his MORO PROBLEM.  He recognized women’s  roles in the U.S. mission, and supported education of women.  A women’s school was started in Jolo in 1916, supported by New York women, which Carpenter understood to prepare women for leadership roles in their communities.

In John Esposito’s ISLAM, GENDER, AND SOCIAL CHANGE, Vivienne S. M. Angles describes his mentoring of a number of the Muslim princesses.  Chief among them was Tarhata Kiram, niece and adopted daughter of the Sultan Jamal al Kiram II. She attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Carpenter hoped that women would influence their husbands, reducing Muslim resistance to American rule.

Tarhata Kiram & Ruth Mustafa

Tarhata Kiram & Ruth Mustafa

Perhaps the most detailed scholarly study of Carpenter’s work in Mindanao and Sulu is Peter Gordon Gowing’s, MANDATE IN MOROLAND. My favorite remark from him about my Father is, “He traveled incessantly throughout the Department on regular inspection trips.  Everywhere he conferred with Moro datus, Pagan leaders, missionaries, Arab teachers, Filipino and American officials, military officers, Chinese traders, Japanese planters, newspaper men, foreign emissaries, and investors and speculators. …  Governor Carpenter was his own best policeman.  His tact, personality, integrity and sense of justice did more to preserve peace and order in the Department than any other factor.”

My Father wrote on the back of the photo below, “A chat with my Mohammedan fellow citizens-”


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sharif on October 23, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Gov. Carpenter should not have a personality with a sovereign head of state-the Sultan which is demoting of a Sultan’s position to a mere governor of a province. Moreover, having the sultan signed the 1915 Carpenter Memorandum. The instrument to be used is not a mere memorandum but should have been a Treaty between two heads of state. Thus, the Sultanate was never abrogated and still to this day constitutionally existing. Return the total sovereignty and independence of the Sultanate/s.


  2. Posted by BB Valeriano on July 20, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    I’m pleased to read your article on Governor Frank Carpenter. I also refer to Peter Gowing’s book on Mindano history. Incidentally, I am the grandson of Carpenter’s military aide in 1914.


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