PPOC seeks state subsidy for ulama in anti-terror drive

Two of 36 mayors in Maguindanao

Anti-terror talks – Two of 36 mayors in Maguindanao huddle with Army’s 6th Infantry Division Commander B/Gen. Arnel Dela Vega and Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu at the regular meeting of the provincial peace and order council the latter presided in Buluan town lately to address squarely terrorism-bound extremism. (Photo by Ali G. Macabalang)

BULUAN, Maguindanao – Authorities in this province are seeking full government subsidy for ulama (Islamic scholars and imams) in an unprecedented bid in the country to foster a comprehensive campaign against terrorism-bound religious extremism.

At the latest meeting here of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on Sept. 13, civilian, police and military officials reached a consensus to organize and subsidize local and foreign-educated ulama in Maguindanao as a pilot area for the innovative venture.

Maguindanao PPOC chairman and Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, Brig. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Provincial Police Director Senior Supt. Agustin Tello and representatives of line agencies and private sectors agreed with the proposal raised at the meeting after a lengthy discussion.

In corroboration, Ustaz Ishak Katambak, a young alim (singular for ulama), told the meeting that the proposal will be an antidote to the current dependence of some ulama to compensations being provided by foreign countries where they obtained Islamic education.

Katambak believed that such dependence has been replete with tendencies among foreign-funded ulama to follow and preach in the country whatever the agenda their benefactors desired for them.

Many ulama from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) finished studies in Middle East countries where some sects are profess wahabbism, an orthodox ideology that allows violent militancy in Islamic governance.
“Islam literally means peace…But some of us, especially those compensated from abroad, are vulnerable to adopting extreme ideology that runs counter to the true essence of the religion,” Katambak said.

The Daesh or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) professes violent religious militancy, which the Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan and Sulu, the Maute group-led Dawlah Islamiya in Lanao del Sur, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao are adhering, according to government authorities.

Military forces have been battling the three local militant groups in series of bloody clashes, but civilian experts said the military solution alone cannot contain the increasing growth of terror-bound extremism.
ISIS-inspired militants are fond of quoting and shortening Islamic verses to suit their scheme. But full presentations of such verses will negate their alibis, Katambak said as batted for “war of substantial ideas.”
“We, ulama, have the strongest foundation to combat misinterpreted ideas in Islam…We are ready to stand for truth and peace this time,” said Katambak, a renowned preacher for peaceful coexistence among peoples.

At the Sept. 13 meeting here, Gov. Mangudadatu said the PPOC will host an inclusive summit early next month as a prelude to instituting the anti-terror program seeking to organize and compensate trained ulama in Maguindanao.
“While the summit is focused on Maguindanao as a pilot area, we are inviting concerned parties from other provinces in the autonomous region and other parts of the country,” Magudadatu said.

The summit will finalize the program package that will compensate ulama that have no regular salaries, on one hand, and detach those receiving fund from outside sources from their foreign benefactors, Mangudadatu said. (Ali G. Macabalang)