The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group has backed a fatwa against violent extremism issued by a senior Islamic religious leader in the troubled southern region of Mindanao.
Sheikh Abehuraira Abdulrahman Udasan, mufti of the influential Bangsamoro House of Opinion in Mindanao, issued the Islamic legal ruling “against the entry and spread of violent radicalism or extremism in any part of the Bangsamoro Homeland”.
The mufti warned of “an urgent need to fight violent extremism or radicalism, in compliance with the injunction of the Quran and the prophetic tradition”.
Udasan, who is a scholar of comparative religion, also noted that extremism had created division between Muslims and non-Muslims.
A statement by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on 4 July said the group “fully endorses and supports such edicts without fear and reservation”, and assured the mufti it was committed to safeguarding its areas of influence from “intrusion by violent extremist elements”.
The group has been agitating for an autonomous region and in 2014 signed a peace deal with the central government in Manila, but it has yet to be concluded. As part of the agreement, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region would be established within Mindanao, named after its “Moro”, or Muslim, population.
The group has been trying to help government efforts to rescue civilians from the fighting in Marawi, where gunmen loyal to Islamic State (IS), including the Maute terrorist group, seized control of the city in May.
Unlike IS, the MILF has clear political, rather than ideological, objectives. The rebel group said radicalism “has no basis whatsoever in any of the teachings of Islam”, adding that terror groups have been “creating intrigues and are sowing terror”, UCAN reported.
The group urged the Filipino people “to close ranks and cooperate with one another in order to deny entry or sanctuary to this kind of people”.
Responding to the fatwa, MILF chairman Hadji Murad Ibrahim said: “The Marawi crisis would not have happened if the Maute group did not enter the city.” He added: “Even without discussing the ideological aspect, just looking at it in the practical perspective, what good does ISIS bring? If we allow them here, what good will they bring? They will only destroy [the communities] further.”
Last month the most senior Anglican cleric in the Middle East, Archbishop Mouneer Anis, said dialogue with jihadists needed to be carried out by moderate Muslims rather than members of other faiths.