Muslims asked to play bigger role in Philippines peace

MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim says if peace succeeds in Philippines south can act as facilititator to prevent conflict worldwide

Muslims asked to play bigger role in Philippines peace

World Bulletin / News Desk

The chairman of the Philippines' one-time largest rebel group is calling on the Muslim world to play a greater role in its 17-year peace process with the government, stating that if stability is achieved in the country's south it could act as a model for other troubled areas.

Talking to Anadolu Agency this week, Moro Islamic Liberation Foundation (MILF) Chair Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim named Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, the European Union and Japan as playing an active role, but said others had little participated.

"The Muslim countries, aside from the ones I mentioned, are not very active. We want to appeal to them to play a bigger role," he said on the sidelines of meetings on the process in capital Kuala Lumpur, in which Malaysia has been a key facilitator.

"It’s logical that everybody supports peace process in Mindanao... If this peace process succeeds, it can encourage other areas and prevent conflict... Even though the Muslim world focuses on problems in the Middle East, they also have to see this process because it can be related."

Ibrahim underlined that although the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had been active under the leadership of current Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani, "there are more of the western countries playing an active role."

After eight months of at times intense consultations, the Philippine legislature failed to pass a law in February that seals the peace process, aimed at bringing an end to a separatist conflict that has killed around 150,000 people.

Bangsamoro Basic Law -- which would establish a new autonomous Muslim-majority political entity in Mindanao -- is now presently stalled as Congress has adjourned for election campaigning.

It does not reconvene until June 30.

Both the government and the MILF have warned that while the agreement is shelved, "terrorist" groups may try and take advantage of local frustrations to move into the territory.

In the interview, Ibrahim stated that although the MILF reserves its right to return to arms, the organization believes that the problems in the Muslim south cannot be solved by violence.

"It can only be solved with continuing with the peace process we started more than 17 years ago," he told reporters gathered in Malaysia, adding that the MILF was doing its upmost to stop radical groups from developing roots in the region.

"You know, the issue of the so-called ISIS [Daesh] has been spreading all over the world, all over Islamic world," he says.

"We cannot let the Mindanao Muslim region to be penetrated by this so-called ISIS. For the past years, we have been trying to ensure that ISIS will not get hope in Mindanao and we are trying to influence people, let them understand that the solution is the peace negotiations."

He warned that the level of frustration among southern Muslims is extremely strong after the non-passage of the law.

"They [radical groups] can capitalize on that."

Since the late 1970s, a quest for greater politico-cultural autonomy in Mindanao by the Moro National Liberation Front -- from which the MILF splintered -- became a more religion-oriented demand for independence, in which the MILF led the way.

Although the south has vast mineral resources and fertile ground, it is host to some of the country's poorest and least-developed provinces.

Ibrahim, however, underlined to Anadolu Agency that the MILF remains a "revolutionary organization".

"Our people have suffered more than 40 years. As a revolutionary organization, we cannot abandon our struggle," he said.

"But as long as the peace process has a chance to move forward, we don’t want to revert to violence again."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Mart 2016, 14:01