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Philippines engages clerics in fight against extremism

Around 150 Muslim clerics and community leaders are assisting government in south in campaign against extremism: mayor

Philippines engages clerics in fight against extremism

By Roy Ramos

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines 

Around 150 Muslim clerics and community leaders are working with the government in Lamitan City in southern Philippines’ Basilan Province in its campaign against violent extremism, according to an official Saturday.

City Mayor Rose Furigay told Philippine Star the Islamic theologians work for the government involves guarding communities from being attracted to radical preachers; in return they are compensated with regular stipends and fuel rations for their daily mobilization.

“Our Muslim clerics are helping us keep the solidarity of Lamitan City’s Muslim and non-Muslim residents,” Furigay said.

The local government was also organizing regular fellowship between Muslim religious leaders and non-Muslim local officials, the daily added.

Lamitan City is the center of Basilan, a province known to be a haven of the militant Abu Sayyaf Group where the so-called emir of Daesh in Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon hails from.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Saturday termed the arrangement in Lamitan as a good practice that should be emulated in other areas.

“This is something we have to replicate in other areas. Moderate Muslim preachers are our best partners in preventing the spread of violent religious extremism in areas vulnerable to infiltration by extremists,” Galvez said.

Recently, several Muslim community groups and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim group in the Philippines, welcomed a ruling against violent extremism or radicalism issued by a top Muslim legal expert in the region in June that urged Muslims to fight violent extremism.

Clashes between government troops and the Maute group in Marawi City has been ongoing since May 23 when the militant group launched an attack in the city allegedly to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.

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