Displaced residents of Marawi pray in a mosque in Marawi's "green zone" as fighting between government security forces and terrorist gunmen continues. (Photo by Darwin Wally Wee)
Philippine Muslim religious leaders say they are to issue a nationwide fatwa, a decree based on Islamic teachings, against terrorism following a meeting with military officials on Aug. 7.
The "fatwa" will condemn the "barbaric actions" of terrorist gunmen, who attacked the city of Marawi in the southern region of Mindanao on May 23, and the spread of violence across the region.
Islamic leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front have earlier issued separate rulings against terrorism.
They declared that, "terrorism and mischief cannot be accepted because our religion commands us to be compassionate to all beings in the land."
Uamilodin Sharif, deputy mufti of Lanao in central Mindanao, however, said the scope of the "fatwa" should cover the entire country "to cover all areas in the country where there are Muslims."
In May, a summit of Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao declared that, "it is haram [forbidden and unlawful] to use Islam to justify or legitimize violent extremism and terrorism."
They called on all Filipino Muslims "to cooperate and collaborate … in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms and manifestations."
The religious leaders condemned the attack on Marawi by Islamic State-inspired gunmen on May 23. The fighting, which continues to rage, has displaced close to 400,000 people.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commanding officer of the military's Western Mindanao Command, said he welcomes the support of the religious leaders "because we believe that it will save our communities from the devastation that violent extremism may bring."
"Awareness is very important in countering violent extremism," said the general. "We need to have all the necessary tools and medium to spread the word in condemning violent extremism at all costs," he added.