Sat. Jul 11th, 2020

Saudi engages religious scholars in countering extremism, terrorism in Philippines

By Moh I. Saaduddin

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has tapped lately Muslim scholars in the country to engage in countering the phenomenal threat of extremism and terrorism and keep young people away from dubious ideologies used by extremists and terrorists in justifying criminal actions.

Around one hundred of prominent Muslim scholars from across the country, mostly graduated from the Middle East and African region, were united in support to the approach of the custodian of two holy mosques Saudi Arabia in confronting the menace that are threat to the nations and the religion of Islam.

Because “terrorism is a criminal phenomenon and it has nothing to do with religions and the Muslims,” the scholars said in a joint statement submitted to the Office of the Religious Attaché of Saudi Embassy in Manila during last Tuesday’s conference here.

They believed that “terrorism is the result of political and sectarian conflicts that stem from human values and moral responsibility and a result of misinterpretations of true teachings of Islam distorting the image of the religion leading to some leaning to retaliate with extreme force.”

The scholars are composed of businessmen and clerics who are operating Madrasas (Islamic schools), mosques and religious organizations in the country. Among them are prominent members of the Agama Islam Society, the Markazus Shabab al-Muslim Fil-Filibbin, the Mercy Foundation, the Al-Maarif in Baguio and the Regional Darul Ifta of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao together with other religious groups and individuals.

The group pledged to start confronting their members and followers in their respective homes, schools, mosques and other places to keep them away from extremism.

Part of the campaign is to spread the wisdom of unity among people and its co-existence citing verse no. 8 of Al-Mumtahana chapter from the Holy Qur’an saying “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.”

The scholars also drafted 24-points of recommendations to the KSA including the formation of a committee or council of scholars that would serve as a national umbrella for Muslim religious groups and institutions operating in the country that would also deal with fatwa [Islamic rulings] being issued locally and other Islamic issues.

The KSA, through its religious attaché in the country, welcomed the inputs and thanked the Filipinos for participating in its worldwide campaign to combat extremism and terrorism.

“We are thankful to Allah that we are here united in realizing our aims,” Fares Al-Mutairi, Saudi Religious Attaché of Saudi Embassy in Manila, said.

Saudi Arabia recently committed to the Philippine government to help quell terrorism in the country after President Rodrigo Duterte visited the Kingdom in April 2017 during the time its foreign ministers also signed two agreements.

The threat of extremism and terrorism in the country, particularly that possessed by the Islamic State (IS) or previously known as ISIS, recently unveiled last year in the country during the five-month war in Marawi City. Due to the chaos, President Duterte declared Martial Law in the entire islands of Mindanao.

More than 1,100 people were killed and more than 230,000 residents of the lone-Islamic city in the country were displaced when supporters of the IS called “Maute” attacked the city on May 23, 2017 in their aim to establish IS caliphate province in the country.

The conflict lasted on October 23, 2017 but the city’s central area, the ground zero, was totally damaged and only few residents have returned back to their homes.

Meanwhile, Al-Mutairi responded to the claims of the people of Marawi that they were not keen of helping saying that they were still waiting for a “go signal” from the Philippine government in order to initiate the offered support in rehabilitating the war-ravaged city.

The envoy explained that the kingdom has a committee at the highest level that were ready to provide support in rebuilding Marawi, however, they have to follow diplomatic protocols for the latter.

Salahudin Bashir, member of the Agama Islami Society from Marawi city who raised the emotional question to the envoy, said he had taken the opportunity to clarify the issue because majority of the people were disappointed to the Kingdom for not helping in the current situation faced by the Muslims in Southern Philippines.

Al-Mutairi appealed to the Muslims in the country, particularly the current victims of terrorism in Marawi, to be patience all the time.

Saudi officials cited that they had recently allocated $1.5-billion for Iraq’s reconstruction and trade and Marawi should not be missed.

Other countries had already pledged support to Marawi rehabilitation including including the United States of America, Australia, China, Japan and European countries, reports said.