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Bangsamoro grand mufti urges unity vs Islamic extremism

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led the launching of the first ever Maguindanao provincial anti-terrorism and security summit. (JOHN UNSON)
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — The Bangsamoro grand mufti on Thursday urged Muslims and Christian to work together against Islamic militants defying Qur’anic teachings on unity and diversity.
 
“Islam is a religion of inclusivity, not exclusivity. It preaches association, not isolation. It is all about religious tolerance, not persecution,” an emotional Sheik Abu Huraira Udasan of the Bangsamoro Darul Iftah (House of Opinions) said on Thursday.
 
The 79-year-old Udasan, who studied Islam and Christianity in the Al-Azzhar University in Cairo and in religious schools in Jerusalem was main speaker in the Maguindanao provincial security, economic and anti-terrorism summit in Buluan town Thursday.
 
More than 3,000 moderate clerics and students of Islamic schools across Maguindanao’s 36 towns joined the summit, jointly organized by the office of Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the office of Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police.
 
The activity, funded by Mangudadatu’s office, was also supported by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, now a peace partner of the government.
 
Magudadatu told summit participants he will provide President Rodrigo Duterte and Congress a report on the consensus reached at the two-day summit.
 
The event was launched exactly two days after Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi City from Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists who had laid siege to more than a dozen barangays there since May 23, sparking a conflict that lasted for more than four months.
 
Army officials acknowledged the support of the local Moro communities for the government's campaign against violent religious extremists, or VREs, trying to drive a wedge between Muslim and Christian sectors.
 
The security officials, led by Maj. Arnel Dela Vega of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told reporters they are also grateful to Maguindanao provincial and municipal  officials who helped in the MILF’s government-sanctioned seven-week offensive against a third group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
 
The main enclave of the Islamic State-inspired BIFF faction, led by radical cleric Esmael Abdulmalik, at the border of Maguindanao’s Salibo and Datu Piang towns, were taken over by MILF two weeks ago following deadly clashes that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen of its guerrillas and of 28 militants.
 
Mangudadatu, who spoke lengthily during the second day of the summit, urged his constituents to help authorities monitor movements of VREs in their areas.

Religion of peace

He also urged them to support the province's bid to have them enlisted, with just compensation, by the national government as “peace mentors” in areas vulnerable to infiltration by militants fomenting animosity to non-Muslims.
 
In their messages, Mangudadatu and the foreign-trained Udasan, grand mufti (preacher) of the Darul Iftah, narrated stories on chronicled examples of Islam’s progenitor, Mohammad, in rallying Muslims and non-Muslims together to help oversee the pioneer Islamic ummah (nation) he established in the ancient Arabian Peninsula,  where Islam originated.
 

Sheik Abu Huraira Udasan of the Bangsamoro Darul Iftah. John Unson

Udasan said one proof that Islam is a religion that respects non-Muslims is how Mohammad personally brokered the “Charter of Medina” that set rules meant to ensure tranquility and cooperation in community affairs among his followers, the Jews and other non-Islamic communities in Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia.
 
The charter became the foundation of Arabia’s first ever inter-religious Islamic state that Mohammad established as part of his initial missionary works.
 
It was also partly intended to put an end to the deadly tribal and religious animosity among the people in desert enclaves then in the Middle East.
 
Udasan also lectured on the Islamic “la iqra fidin” maxim, which contextually means there is no compulsion in religion.
 
He repeatedly branded as “haram,” Arabic for forbidden, the activities of VREs belonging to the Abu Sayyaf, the Maute terror group and all other local blocs using the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as revolutionary banner.
 
Mangudadatu told reporters he is thankful to religious leaders and military officials who helped organize the two-day summit, among them Col. Markton Abo, the Muslim civil-military relations officer of 6th ID.
 
The MILF was represented in the summit by the first vice chairman of its central committee, Ghazali Jaafar, who is chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
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