MILF must categorically condemn ISIS now

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) must immediately condemn in the strongest terms the horrific atrocities of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

If it doesn’t, Congress is morally required to immediately stop considering the bill for the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would create a sub-state under the MILF’s complete control.

How can we, as a nation, negotiate terms with an armed, militant Islamic organization that doesn’t see anything wrong with the ISIS, and doesn’t publicly condemn their crimes against humanity?

Is the MILF thinking that it cannot afford to antagonize the ISIS – which has huge resources, financially and militarily – in case it may have to ask the international Islamic armed group for help if the Philippine Republic doesn’t give in to its demand for a Bangsamoro (Malay for “Moro nation-state”) statehood?

The civilized world has been one in condemning the ISIS atrocities – beheadings of civilians including children and women, mass executions of captives, rape and mutilation of women. ISIS in its perverted thinking has been even boasting of these horrific deeds, disseminating videos and photos of their acts of depravations on the internet.

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Even Muslim countries in the Middle East – among them Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates – have joined the US-led coalition in waging war against the ISIS. The UAE has even humiliated the misogynist ISIS by telling the world that it was a female pilot who led the first air strike mission against the jihadists’ positions.

Unthinking media reports claimed that the MILF vowed “to block the spread of the Islamic State ‘virus’” in the country. That is total hogwash. The MILF’s only reference to the ISIS was in the editorial on its website luwaran.com dated August 23-31, which tried to debunk reports – including a claim by former President Fidel V. Ramos – that the guerillas of the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the ISIS.

MILF never condemned ISIS
What was the MILF comment on this? The following, which is hardly critical of the ISIS:

• The number of Abu Sayaff and BIFM “is too tiny to be felt and make a difference. The ISIS is overflowing with volunteers from all over the world, including those from the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia.”

• The MILF likens the ISIS to the medieval Christian crusades: “The ISIS, we suppose, is not short of people who are like those Europeans who joined the Crusades in the 13th century to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims, who were described as ‘infidels’ by Christendom.”

The portrayal by some media reports of the MILF condemning the ISIS is merely what you could call a generic condemnation, and even this was buried in a de facto apologia for ISIS, and we quote that luwaran.com editorial:

“The MILF condemns barbarism and savagery whether done by other groups including the ISIS or even by its own members. Nor are we justifying the advent of the ISIS. That is not for the MILF to dip our fingers into.

But it is a fact that the Arab countries suffered humiliatingly from the evil machinations of Western Countries. Iraq was invaded to get rid of a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and to seize his nuclear weapons, which were not there. Nobody cried for the ouster and death of Saddam. But the real reasons for the invasion were concealed, i.e., to seize control of the Iraqi oil and as a protection for Israel, which is the spoiled brat of the Western world.

What did the Iraqis get in return? Nothing but bloodshed, destruction, anarchism. Who are at fault? The one that created the troubles now or those who planted the seeds of enmity and violence? The answer is, both, but who is the main culprit?”

Sadly, our negotiators with the MILF are acting as the rebel group’s spokesmen, assuming that it is against the ISIS. Chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said: “It is very unlikely that there are actually people from Mindanao (joining the ISIS). There is a bigger risk that some overseas Filipino workers in Syria or Iraq got entangled with the ISIS, dahil nandun na sila (because they were already there). But coming from Mindanao pupunta sa Syria or Iraq para sumali (to go to Syria or Iraq to join? We don’t have any clear evidence to show that.”

Coronel is so ignorant: There is a de facto expressway from Muslim Mindanao to the Middle East, because of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which is required of followers of Islam.

Coronel is blind to the history of the MILF. Compared to other Islamic groups, even its main rival the Moro National Liberation Front, the MILF has had the closest links to the global jihadist movement since its formation in 1976 when it broke off from the MNLF. It wasn’t the MNLF or the Abu Sayaff who sent their guerillas to Afghanistan to join the Taliban mujahideens to fight the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It was the MILF, whose officer corps today is made up of veterans who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan.

MILF’s international links
In contrast to MNLF head Misuari, whose international network had been limited to Gadafi’s Libya, those of the MILF’s former head Hashim Salamat and now chairman Ibrahim Murad, as well as the vice chairman Ghazali Jaafara, have been broader, from Malaysian government authorities to Asean-wide jihadist groups to Salamat’s classmates in his Islamic studies in Egypt.

The Aquino government, his negotiators and Congress are burying their heads in the sand, and endangering our national security if they aren’t taking seriously the implications of recent developments that indicate ISIS has been gathering adherents in our part of the world:

The “Islamic State ‘brand’ gains ground among Asian militants,” the respected British news service Reuters reported last week. “In Asia, thousands have sworn oaths of loyalty to the Islamic State as local militant groups capitalize on a brand that has been fueled by violent online videos and calls to jihad through social media, security analysts say. Security officials say this has disturbing implications for the region, especially when battle-hardened fighters return home from the Middle East.”

The Chinese TV network CCTV.com reported: “A video is doing the rounds which shows members of the Abu Sayyaf pledging allegiance to the ISIS. Another armed group in the Southern Philippines, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has offered its support to ISIS. A few other clips of Filipino Muslims vowing loyalty to ISIS – including one supposedly shot inside a high security prison – have been making the rounds on the Internet. There are reports that about a hundred young Filipino Muslims have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, two of whom were allegedly killed in battle.”

With all the categorical support for the ISIS announced by militant Muslims here, and with reports that they have even sent their volunteers to Syria to fight, why isn’t the MILF condemning the ISIS?

Are we going to give this armed organization, which most probably secretly supports the ISIS, even only in theory, 10 percent of Philippine territory for them to rule?