Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Philippines' biggest Muslim rebel group, supports 'fatwa' against violent radicalism

Philippine President Benigno Aquino (right) talking with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief Murad Ebrahim during a visit to the rebels stronghold in Sultan Kudarat.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino (right) talking with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief Murad Ebrahim during a visit to the rebels stronghold in Sultan Kudarat. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer /Asia News Network) - The leader of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Philippines' biggest Muslim rebel group, said on Tuesday (July 4) his group supports a fatwa - or Islamic edict - against violent radicalism.

In a statement received by the Inquirer on Tuesday morning, chairman Murad Ebrahim said the Bangsamoro mufti, Sheik Abehuraira Abdulrahman Udasan, had declared the fatwa "against the entry and spread of violent radicalism or extremism in any part of the Bangsamoro Homeland."

"The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fully endorses and supports such edict without fear and reservation," the statement said.

"The fatwa also states that there is an urgent need to fight violent extremism or radicalism, in compliance with the injunction of the Quran and the Prophetic Tradition (Al-Hadith)," it said.

This is the strongest condemnation yet from the MILF against the radicalism being spread by the ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in the Bangsamoro region.

MILF, with 12,000 fighters, had signed a historic accord with former President Benigno Aquino in 2014 under which an autonomous region named Bangsamoro would be formed on part of Mindanao Island, in the Philippines' Muslim-majority south.

But Congress shot down a draft law that would create this region, following a botched raid on the lair of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir that led to the deaths of dozens of police commandos at the hands of an MILF splinter group in 2015.

Instead of revisiting the Aquino-MILF deal, incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte opted to push for federalism, but with nothing to back it up.

That decision may have led to the siege of the southern city of Marawi by ISIS-linked militants seeking to create a caliphate, in the biggest crisis to hit his government.

The MILF, with which the government has forged a peace pact, has been leading efforts to rescue civilians trapped in Marawi City.

The terrorists continue to put up a fight against the military in Marawi City. The bloody battle to liberate the besieged city has entered its seventh week Tuesday. Nearly 100 soldiers have died and thousands of residents have evacuated from Marawi City.

The MILF urged both its political and military wings to pursue the fatwa "vigorously to ensure that this violent extremism or radicalism shall not take root in any part of our communities, because it has no basis whatsoever in any of the teachings of Islam."

"They are creating intrigues and are sowing terror. They are also thriving on the sufferings and hardships of people," the MILF said.

Muslim clerics all over the world have declared fatwas against radicalism and extremism, in an effort to push back against the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.