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Philippines

Filipino Muslims wage 'ideological war' with extremism

Religious leaders call for re-education in mosques and schools to halt spread of radicalization

Darwin Wally Wee, Basilan

Darwin Wally Wee, Basilan

Published: June 13, 2017 06:16 AM GMT

Updated: June 13, 2017 06:19 AM GMT

Filipino Muslims wage 'ideological war' with extremism

Filipino Muslims hold an early morning prayer in Manila during the celebration of Eid al-Adha in 2016. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

Muslim religious leaders in the southern Philippines said they are waging an "ideological war" to prevent the spread of "extremist ideology" in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"We are engaging all sectors to address the spread of religious extremism and radicalism," said Abdulmuhmin Alyakanie Mujahid, executive director of the Darul Ifta, or the Fatwa Council of the region.

Mujahid cited agreements forged by Islamic scholars and the government in Basilan province, known to be a haven of the terror group Abu Sayyaf.

He said the "multi-approach" effort aims to deny the spread of extremist ideology in the area.

Basilan will be the "pilot area" of the project, which is an offshoot of a Muslim religious leaders' summit last month.

Alih Aiyub, secretary-general of the Ulama Council of the Philippines, said they will use "multi-disciplinary approaches" in countering violent extremism.

"The ulama will handle the spiritual aspect to combat terrorism and win the hearts and minds of those radicalized through sermons in mosques," said Aiyub.

The program will also include working with educational institutions "to provide a primer, or module, as reference material and train teachers for effective prevention of violent extremism among students."

The effort will include "psychological intervention," such as values formation that will be carried out by the government's social welfare office.

Part of the program is engagement with the security sector "to shield young people from being recruited" by extremist groups.

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The Muslim leaders earlier issued a declaration against terrorism, saying that it is forbidden, even as they challenged themselves "to re-educate" the people to "rediscover the Islamic faith."

"It is imperative upon us all to cooperate and collaborate with the stakeholders in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms and manifestations," said the religious leaders.

Mujahid said the lamas, or Muslim clerics, of Mindanao are "proactively engaging all stakeholders to overcome the challenges of extremism" in Marawi City.

"These extremist groups are using the creed of Islam. We can't allow that and we will not allow that," said Mujahid.

"Our call to all Muslims is to fight against violent extremism and terrorism," he added.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the autonomous Muslim region said he already instructed the Interior Department to initiate forums for officials to understand the complexity of the problem.

"When the masses, the religious leaders, and the political leaders are united and work together for the betterment of our society, we can succeed," said the governor.

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