Moro lawyer: religious leaders are 1st line of defense vs extremism

“I was at a loss for words to express my revulsion at the beheading of those poor workers in Sulu ..but while I was at a loss for words, Mindanao's Ulama knew exactly how to describe those acts: evil. The condemnation by the Ulama only shows that our first line of defense against religious extremism are the religious leaders themselves,” Zainuddin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center on Law and Policy said in an e-mail to mindanao1081, an e-group of Mindanawons.

Seven persons, six of them road construction workers, were kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf members Sunday last week. Four days later, on April 19, their severed heads were delivered to the military. The Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the beheading.

April 19 was seven years to the day the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two of 29 hostages seized from Basilan on March 20, 2000. The Abu Sayyaf’s Abu Ahmad Salayuddin then said the group had recorded the executions of two teachers who were former soldiers, as they were the “birthday gifts” for then president Joseph Estrada. The 2000 beheading was the first claimed by the group.

“Moro analysts of the terrorism phenomena have been saying it for ages. Now, if only our brilliant anti-terrorism experts in Nanyang and ABS-CBN News and elsewhere – experts who have appropriated that title as well as that of being an ‘eyewitness’ to the terror phenomena without even setting foot much less immersing themselves in the Moro communities – and their audience in policy circles begin to realize this,” Malang said.

“We need the Ulama,” he said, “ to isolate, delegitimize, and expose the fallacy in the extremists' religious pretensions.”

But Malang acknowledged the difficulties Moro religious leaders are facing now.

“We cannot expect them to continue being pro-active if they are repeatedly bombarbed on both sides with blanket accusations of either being breeders of terrorism by the academe/media/military triumvirate or of being traitors by the extremists. Moreso when they are being picked up left and right and subjected to ‘tactical interrogations,”  he said.

“I say anyone who posits that Mindanao's Ulama are breeders of extremism has not listened to a single Khutbah or sermon that are normally delivered in any of the mosques in this country. Thus, instead of continuing the practice of letting non-Moros with nary an insight into the workings of the Moro psyche or sociology define the response to extremism, I say anyone who is in a position to influence events in Mindanao (should) start considering the empowerment of Moro socio-political institutions so that they can put their own house into order. The present practice has been going on for ages and look where it has gotten us. Nowhere,” Malang said.

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