MILF commits to implement fatwa vs radical extremism

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangsamoro mufti or top Muslim legal expert in the region, Sheikh Abuhuraira Abulrahman Udasan, issued a fatwa against radical extremism amid government clashes with homegrown terrorist groups that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

It's a ruling that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's dominant Muslim rebel group, has committed to implement.

"The Bangsamoro Dar Al-Ifta had issued a Shariah ruling (Fatwa) on the need to fight violent extremism on the land and promotion of division among the Muslims, as compliance with the injunction of the Quran and the Prophetic Tradition," reads the ruling dated June 25, 2017.

MILF vs Maute Group

The fatwa did not specifically name groups that promote radical extremism, but an MILF statement said it is noteworthy that the "fatwa comes at the time when the Marawi crisis entered its 39th day and still it has no sight when the war ends."

The Maute Group promoted an interpretation of the Koran that is different from the understanding of the MILF leadership, a body that is composed of many ulama or religious leaders. 

But the Maute Group, which operates in areas considered MILF bailiwicks, was able to recruit among MILF clans amid growing frustration over the slow progress of the peace process. (READ: MILF, Maute Group battle for legitimacy)

On May 23, the combined forces of the Maute Group and the ISIS-linked faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group attempted to seize Marawi City to carve their own territory and establish a caliphate in the region.

The attack comes as ISIS loses territory in the Middle East. According to the military, the ISIS leadership itself had been coordinating with the Philippine groups. (READ: Regional intel: ISIS fighters in Mindanao triple PH's estimate)

Denying sanctuary to radicals

The MILF welcomed the fatwa and committed to support it, stressing the "urgent need to fight violent extremism or radicalism." (READ: Duterte: ISIS followers radicalizing Filipinos in Mindanao)

"The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fully endorses and supports such edict without fear and reservation," MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said in a statement on July 1.

"The purpose of the fatwa must be pursued 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," he added.

The MILF instructed its leaders to deny extremists a refuge. 

"The MILF calls on the officials and members of both its political and military organs, as well as the people in general to close ranks and cooperate with one another in order to deny entry or sanctuary to this brand of people," said Murad. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Justin Richmond on the radicalization of Marawi– Rappler.com