ARMM clerics to help address misguided Islamic militancy

Mindanao Peace Process • Sat May 13, 2017 10:06 AM  •  219   0
By John Unson
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Islamic theologians from across Mindanao are attending an on-going anti-terrorism summit in Cotabato City. JOHN UNSON
Islamic theologians from across Mindanao are attending an on-going anti-terrorism summit in Cotabato City. JOHN UNSON
COTABATO CITY -- Security is so tight around the venue here of an Islamic summit where clerics are to pledge support to Malacañang’s anti-terrorism campaign.

The three-day event, launched Friday, was organized by Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and members of the Regional Darul Iftah, also known as “House of Opinions.”
The activity is dubbed ARMM Ulama Summit Against Terrorism.

Two platoons of soldiers backed by Simba armored vehicles and more than 50 policemen have been deployed in the surroundings of the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, located inside the 32-hectare ARMM compound here, where the clerics are to hold the summit.

Facilitators said the summit is focused on generating consensus among Muslim missionaries from across the autonomous region, among them graduates of Islamic schools in the Middle East and in North Africa, on how they can best help in the anti-terrorism campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The summit involves more than 300 Muslim clerics, some of them from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where there is presence of the Abu Sayyaf, from Maguindanao where there are lairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and from Lanao del Sur, where the Maute terror group has been sowing havoc for more than a year now.

All three extremists groups boasts of loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and are enforcing a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they operate, which ARMM residents detest for being obsolete and barbaric.

Officials of ARMM’s Madaris Education Bureau, which has hundreds of preachers handling peace and Islamic values education courses in public schools, are also involved in the summit.

Organizers said the summit will be capped off with a collective manifestation of commitment by participants to efforts of the Hataman administration and Duterte to eradicate Islamic militancy in the autonomous region.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Friday he supports the summit and is optimistic it will hasten the common initiative of the ARMM government, the Philippine National Police and the military to prevent the spread of religious extremism in far-flung communities.

“We are together employing different approaches towards that goal and one of the solutions we also saw fit is the continuing implementation by the ARMM government of infrastructure projects in areas where there are fanatical extremist groups,” Galvez said.

Galvez said the socio-economic developments ushered in by the ARMM’s costly infrastructure projects, such as roads, seaports, and other facilities needed to improve the productivity of local farming and fishing communities have weakened the Abu Sayyaf tactically.
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