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 to spur a comprehensive campaign against terrorism-bound religious extremism.
At the latest meeting here of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on September 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 Sr. Supt. Agustin Tello, and representatives of line agencies and private sectors agreed with the proposal raised at the meeting.
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 on compensations being provided by foreign countries where they obtained their Islamic education.
Katambak believed that this situation has constrained the ulama into preaching whatever agenda their benefactors desire from them.
Many ulama from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) finished studies in Middle East countries where some sects 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 also adhere to, according to government authorities.