COTABATO CITY: Adopting a holistic approach, the ulama or Muslim religious scholars, led an ideological war in Basilan to stop the spread of extremism, particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Darul Ifta or the ARMM Fatwa Council, disclosed this to The Manila Times as the Marawi siege remains unresolved.
All five ARMM provinces have problems with extremism — the Maute terrorist group holds out in Lanao del Sur; in Sulu and Basilan the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has a nagging presence; and in Tawi-Tawi, small groups of ASG members — have figured recently in bloody encounters with military forces in the island province.
In Maguindanao, the extremists Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are very active. Just last week, the BIFF made several attempts to hoist the black ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flag but were foiled by alert elements of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
Executive Director Alyakanie Mujahid of the ARMM Fatwa Council said they are calling on all stakeholders to answer the call to help stop the spread of extremism in the autonomous region and in other parts of the country.
The Islamic scholars in Basilan forged several agreements with the regional and provincial governments, as well as with line agencies, to carry out “multi-approaches” to prevent the spread of extremist ideology in their area.
The effort, Muhajid said, is an offshoot of the Ulama Summit held in Cotabato City in early May. During the summit, the Ulama issued a declaration against terrorism saying, “It is Haram (forbidden and unlawful) to use Islam to justify or legitimize violent extremism and terrorism.”
The Ulama also challenged themselves to re-educate their constituents and lead them to rediscover Islamic faith for justice, compassion, harmony and peace.
“It is imperative upon us all to cooperate with the stakeholders in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms and manifestations,” the declaration said.
Mujahid said they are now proactively engaging all stakeholders to overcome the challenges of extremism as what is happening in Marawi City.
“These extremist groups are using the creed of Islam. As a matter of fact, they are using the so-called 13 doctrines of Islam and citing verses of the Holy Quran in justifying their criminal and inhumane acts. We can’t allow that, we will never allow that,” he said.
“Our urgent call is to fight against violent extremism and terrorism,” Mujahid underscored.
Alih Aiyub, secretary-general of the Ulama Council of the Philippines, said what they are employing is multi-disciplinary approaches in “concretizing and preventing violent extremism and countering violent extremism.”
He said they have identified “seven interventions” to address the threat.
“The Ulama will handle the spiritual aspect by targeting the youth and win the hearts and minds of those who have been radicalized through sermons in the mosques and other means,” he said.
Aiyub said educational intervention will take the form of working “with educational institutions to provide a primer or module as reference material and train teachers for effective prevention of violent extremism among their students.
“Scholarships will also be provided for skills training for out-of-school youth. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) will be tapped as partner in this effort,” he said.
The program will include psychological intervention aimed at the youth sector that includes values formation to be carried out by local government units and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“It will also have a social intervention component to train individuals to lead productive and peaceful through lives. This will be implemented alongside economic intervention thrusts such as providing livelihood programs for the youth through government line agencies like the Department of Agriculture and Tesda,” Aiyub said.
An integral part of the program, he added, is to engage with the security sector to “shield the youth from being recruited” by extremist groups, and “to provide peace and security in the community.”
Mujahid said they will implement it in the entire region after piloting in Basilan with assessment and necessary fine tuning before going full blast in other provinces.
Meanwhile, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he has instructed the Department of the Interior and Local Government in the region to initiate forums for local government officials across the region to understand the complexity of the problem and how to combat it.
“When the masses, the religious leaders, and political leaders are united to work together for the betterment of our society, we can succeed, Insha Allah,” Hataman said.
Hataman earlier said that Muslim scholars can contribute in the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam, most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace, and harmony.