CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The war with Muslim extremists in the Philippines calls for a holy war, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman told Muslim religious leaders or ulama in a conference here this week.
"Kung handang magpakamatay sila sa maling paniniwala nila, bakit hindi tayo handang magpakamatay kung tama ang ating paniniwala. Kung mayroong dapat magjihad ngayon, dapat tayong lahat (If they are ready to die for their wrong belief, why are we not willing to die if our belief is the correct one? If there are people who should launch a jihad right now, it should be us)," he said.
Hataman spoke at the Ulama-LGU Executives Multi-Sectoral Groups Conference on the Marawi Crisis held on September 6 in Cagayan de Oro.
The prolonged war with local terrorist groups – the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group – linked with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Marawi City is a wake-up call that prompted collective action from a region that has long suffered from violent extremism. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)
The Bangsamoro mufti or top Muslim legal expert in the region issued a fatwa against radical extremism, an important ruling that sent a clear stand against the ISIS ideology that, the war shows, has radicalized many young Muslims in Central Mindanao.
The issuance of the fatwa on June 25 triggered commitments from dominant Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), local officials, and Muslim religious leaders who were previously accused of dangerous ambivalence about the Maute Group.
The MILF has offered to help the military stop armed groups from reinforcing the terrorists in the Marawi battle area, guarding the parts of its stronghold Maguindanao that are bordering Lanao del Sur.
Lanao mayors signed a manifesto declaring war against the Maute Group.
In a 3-day conference in Cagayan de Oro, the members of the Ulama League of the Philippines sat down to discuss their actions on the ground to "eradicate the misguided interpretation of Islam."
"We stand firmly with the idea that any form of terror including the action of ISIS and inspired radical Islamist groups based in Lanao del Sur often known as the Maute Group, Dawlah [Islamiyah], Abu Sayyaf are purely un-Islamic," said Alibasher Aldulatif, National Speaker of the Ulama League of the Philippines.
"No religion was never mentioned that allows bombing, kidnapping, assassination and extortion. The ulama must have a unanimous stand on this issue," he added.
Pass Bangsamoro Law
Religious leaders and stakeholders agree that the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is crucial in addressing the problem of extremism in Mindanao. (READ: MILF, Maute Group battle for legitimacy)
The BBL seeks to create a new Bangsamoro region that will replace and will have wider powers than the current ARMM. This is opposed to the plans of the Maute Group to carve their own territory in Central Mindanao where ISIS will rule.
Hataman said the enacment of BBL alone will not stop violent extremism in Mindanao. But it's an important start.
"Alam ko hindi ito ang ultimong solution. Pero sisiguraduhin ko sa inyo, malaking bagay sa pagtapos sa problem natin sa extremista ang BBL (I know it is not the ultimate solution. But I'm assuring you, the BBL is crucial in ending the problem of extremism)," said Hataman.
"Kahit gaano katigas at kaastig ang Pangulo ng bansa, kahit gaano pa kalakas ang sandatahan ng bansa, hindi ho solusyon ang lakas at hindi po solusyon ang isang tao sa laki ng problema na hinaharap ng ating bansa. Dapat lahat tayo ang solusyon ng problemang ito," He added.
(No matter how strong the President of the country is, no matter how strong the military is, strength and one person alone are not enough to address the big problem the country is facing. We should all help in solving this problem.)
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that the passage of BBL was sidelined by the war, but he assured the religious leaders that President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to its passage.
The enacment of the BBL is one of the appeals of the Ulama League of the Philippines.
It also called for a congressional inquiry into the "realities of the Marawi siege that prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao," additional security forces in their areas, and the urgent rehabilitation of Marawi City. – Rappler.com