Some 30 members of the Ulama Council of Lanao del Sur, traditional leaders and local government officials met last Sunday with the military to discuss the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Marawi City and the crafting of a fatwa or religious edict directed against the Maute terror group.
Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong and Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong were joined by Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), for a dialogue with those considered as the pillars of Marawi.
During the two-hour meeting, the ulama members aired their concerns about the role of the ulama (the learned of Islam) and the sultanate in countering violent extremism and their participation in alleviating the plight of IDPs.
In response, WestMinCom Chief, Lt. Gen. Galvez explained to them the complex situation in Marawi and the military’s predicament in the ongoing crisis.
Members of the religious sector, the sultanates and elders sought unity of all Maranaos regardless of their individual political parties and preferences.
One of the elders recounted his own harrowing experience of having lost his home and his treasures burned but said he did not lament his loss.
Instead, he offered a prayer for healing and understanding among those affected by the fighting in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Despite the continuing threat to their lives, the ulama and traditional leaders reiterated their spiritual obligation to tell the truth and express their abhorrence for the un-Islamic ways of the Maute terror group inspired by the Islamic State.
The entire Ulama Council agreed to declare a fatwa that will condemn the barbaric actions of the terrorists and to strongly discourage recruitment because of money.
“Joining an organization in exchange for money is taboo in Islam, more so supporting a terror group that does not respect life is unacceptable,” said one of the attendees.
“Islam is peace, and those who do not want peace, are not in line with Islam,” one of the members of the Ulama Council said.
The ulamas believe that the problem of terrorism is not only a Mindanao problem but a national and global issue.
The group is recommending to President Rodrigo Duterte that a National Ulama Council Convention be convened in order to declare the fatwa at the soonest possible time.
It is proposing the activity to show their disagreement with and express their condemnation of the terrorists who have been sowing destruction and fear in their city for 76 days now.
“This is a very important event for us in the local government, for the religious and traditional leaders and the military as well,” Adiong said.
“We intended to pursue this dialogue in order to bridge the communication gap among groups and organizations, and yes, it was indeed a successful event,” she added.
The WestMinCom chief made sure to personally meet the leaders, hear them out and discuss with them specific issues to which only the military can provide answers.
“We support the ulamas’ intent in pushing for the conduct of a National Ulama Council because we believe that it will save our communities from further devastation that violent extremism may yet bring,” Galvez said.
“Awareness is very important in countering [this threat], therefore, we need to have all the necessary tools and medium to spread the word in condemning violent extremism at all cost,” he added.
The meeting was described as productive and very positive.
The openness of the different ulama organizations to unite by declaring a fatwa, was seen as a manifestation of their common desire to combat terrorism.
The activity ended with the parties agreeing to compromise on issues that can still be ironed out and discussed further.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesman for Joint Task Force Marawi, said after the meeting that the WestMinCom commander signed a directive for all military units conducting checkpoints to immediately establish special assistance and courtesy lanes in all checkpoints and to put up medical first aid stations in crowded areas for the traveling ulamas, the elderly and sickly commuters.