Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Filippino Muslim clerics urge peace


The spiritual leader of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group warned against reviving conflict yesterday as followers feted the end of the fasting month of Ramadan with dawn prayers and automatic gunfire.

A recent spate of bombings has threatened a fragile 2003 ceasefire between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government but Ustadz Omar Pasigan warned against violence.

"It is haram [forbidden] for us Muslims to kill without any reason, even if the target is an unbeliever," said Pasigan, Grand Mufti on the southern island of Mindanao, where around 3 million Muslims celebrated Id al-Fitr.

Other clerics echoed his words.

Last week, police charged MILF leader Ebrahim Murad in absentia for his alleged role in three bombings that killed seven people and wounded more than 30 in the south, angering his followers and threatening long-running peace talks.

Security officials had previously blamed members of Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines' smallest and most violent Muslim rebel group, for the attacks, which came during a long-running offensive against Abu Sayyaf's leadership.

The MILF has accused local politicians of fabricating evidence against Murad to derail stalled talks on creating an enlarged Muslim homeland in the south and end a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 since the late 1960s.

The Philippines has declared today as a holiday to mark Id al-Fitr but Filipino Muslims, who refer to the festival as Hariraya Puasa, celebrated yesterday.

Shots rang out at dawn yesterday as thousands of Muslims fired guns to celebrate the end of Ramadan and prayed for peace in the south.

Police officials have warned against firing guns -- the traditional way of marking the start of the three-day Id feast -- but few paid notice and no casualties from stray bullets were immediately reported.

In Manila, a jailed Muslim leader who led a failed rebellion in 2001 was given a few hours to pray at a mosque in the capital.

Hundreds of Muslims chanted Allahu Akbar outside the mosque as Nur Misuari asked them to support peace efforts in the south, hoping the government would allow him to travel to Saudi Arabia next month to meet the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The OIC called three-party talks with the Philippines and the MILF, to look at the implementation of a 1996 peace agreement granting autonomy to Muslims in the south.

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