MILF urges bishops, ulamas: stay neutral

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday asked the bishops and ulamas tapped by the government to help negotiate peace in Mindanao to “stay neutral.”

“We trust your integrity, knowledge, and moral ascendancy in guiding men and women for their better spiritual life on earth. But please preserve this clout, credibility and trust of the people in you,” MILF committee on information deputy chair Khaled Musa said in a statement.

Musa aired the appeal to Catholic bishops, Protestant bishops and pastors, as well as Muslim ulamas, who were tapped by the administration to conduct dialogues with “communities” to end the insurgency.

“They should support the peace process and should strengthen what the parties to the conflict have already agreed,” he said.

The MILF questioned the government’s decision in using religious personalities, saying the armed conflict in Mindanao is not about clash of religions but clearly an offshoot of “greed, hatred and mistrust” for the Bangsamoro people.

Musa said the involvement of ulamas, viewed as a religious sector, is a misdirected effort and alien to Islam.

“There is no clergy in Islam as understood in Christianity; everybody is under obligation to promote Islam. Strictly speaking, Islam is not a religion but an ideology with belief in one Supreme Being as the main part of its teachings. The various systems, political, economic, educational, etc. are drawn and guided from that uncompromising belief in one true Almighty, as contained in the Holy Qur’an. Ulamas (plural of aleem) are those who studied and acquired degrees in Islamic Laws and Jurisprudence especially from universities in the Middle East,” Musa explained.

Earlier, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo requested the Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) to spearhead a civil society initiative to come up with a framework for lasting peace in Mindanao.

The President wants to “hear the views of stakeholders in the private sector, the local government units (LGUs), and all those who will be affected one way or the other in what may become a framework for peace and development not only for Mindanao but the whole country as well.”