MUSLIM clerics in Lanao del Sur have issued a “fatwa” or Islamic ruling condemning the current rebellion in their Marawi City led by the ISIS-inspired extremist groups, the Palace said Friday.
On the 88th day of the siege in Marawi City, the military also announced that the battle ground had been reduced to “half a kilometer grid square” as the Mindanao State University was scheduled to resume its classes on Aug. 22.
“This supports the declaration of war against the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group of all 41 mayors in Lanao del Sur through a manifesto signed on Aug. 12,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella told Palace news briefing.
“The 40 towns and one city of the province shall strengthen the civilian security plan of barangays mobilizing religious leaders with the said declaration,” he added.
Military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the fatwas issued by the MILF and the ARMM Grand Mufti and the Darul Ifta were “very critical ingredients in our program to fight and prevent the spread of violent extremism and radicalism.”
Uamilodin Sharif, deputy mufti of the provincial Darul Ifta of Lanao, on Tuesday said the main objective of the conference was for the Ulama across the country to have a fatwa against terrorism amid the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
“Terrorism is one of the major problems the country is facing. Yes, it is true that there are already two existing fatwas issued by the regional Darul Ifta of ARMM and from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Our purpose here is to bring to the national level the scope of the Fatwa. That’s why we are convening a national conference on this,” he said.
“We want to widen the scope of the fatwa to cover all areas in the country so that all Muslims should be aware of our fight against terrorism. Radicalism does not reflect to (sic) the true teachings of Islam. That’s our objective,” he added.
While there were no reports yet of Ulamas being threatened by Maute terrorists due to issuance of fatwa, Padilla said they expected possible retaliations from the rebels.
In a radio dzBB report, Ulama Abdulhamid Umpa Amirpitor said that 20 of the 50 ulamas in Lanao del Sur who signed the fatwa received threats from extremist rebels.
Part of the letter from the terrorists—written in Maranao language—reads: “...if you sign the manifesto, you will be considered a ‘munafiq’ or hypocrite.”
“It is not for the Maute rebels to decide because they’re not religious leaders. The religious leaders are the last voice when it is a matter about their religion, about Islam,” Padilla said.
Amidst the conflict, Padilla said the Mindanao State University would finally reopen on Aug. 22, but soldiers would remain stationed in the campus to provide security.
“The opening will be on the 22nd of August and once the 800 Balik Eskuwela students are ready, we will help facilitate [their return] by providing transportation to help bring them to the campus,” he said.
The AFP said it was safe to reopen MSU since it was far from the main battle area in Marawi which had been reduced to “slightly over half a kilometer grid square.”
Previously, stray bullets would fly into the campus because of fierce gun battles near the area since the siege began on May 23.
Airstrikes would also continue in some areas in Marawi despite the school opening, Padilla said.
Meanwhile, two soldiers lost their legs after stepping on land mines believed to have been planted by the terrorists.
As of 7 p.m. on Aug. 17, 573 were already killed on the part of the terrorists while 128 soldiers and 45 civilians also suffered the same fate.
Some 1,728 civilians were rescued from the battle area while 635 firearms, eight improvised explosive devices, and 16 unexploded ordnance were recovered.