– Al Haj Murad Ebrahim
After nearly four decades of deadly conflict the Philippines largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF has signed a peace treaty with the government of President Benigno Aquino on March.
The peace deal outlines plans to create a Bangsamoro self rule area in Mindanao in Philippines’ south. The autonomous region will cover about 10 per cent of territory in the majority Roman Catholic Philippines and will have its own police force, a regional parliament and the power to levy taxes.
Mohammed Kahiye, Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance International Affairs representative and a member of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations met the chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim who was part of the peace deal in the world Muslim youth forum in Istanbul, Turkey and asked some key questions.
Briefly tell us about yourself?
A.M.E. I am Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). I assumed the Chairmanship of the front after our late Chairman and Founder of the MILF, Al Ustad Salamat Hashim (Rahimahu Allah) passed away in 2003. I join the Struggle at age 21 during my senior years at a University in our place, Cotabato City while studying civil engineering,
I obtain my clandestine military training in 1971 to 1973 in a foreign country. After my training I was assigned as Zone Commander, then as Regional Commander, then as Vice Chairman for Military Affairs of the MILF in 1982, which I held until my assumption to the MILF Chairmanship in 2003. I have participated in almost all major battles of the front since 1973 in the mainland of Mindanao as a military commander.
What are your expectations on the recent peace deal that you’ve signed with the Philippines government?
A.M.E. We are optimistic that finally we can have peace and prosperity in the Bangsamoro Homeland, once the agreement is faithfully implemented, we hope the agreement will give as a chance to enjoy our own way of life in accordance with our religious belief and culture and map our own future.
It took more than 40 years and thousands lives to achieve peace?
A.M.E. Our struggle was a hard and it started when the Philippine government waged a genocidal campaign against the Bangsamoro Muslim in the late 60’s and early 70’s massacring thousands of innocent Muslim population including women and children, the number of death from both sides including majority civilians is estimated to have reached not less than one hundred fifty thousand and multi billion pesos (the Philippine currency) worth of properties damaged.
How difficult or painful was it to come to the negotiating table with Philippines government your enemy?
A.M.E. Our negotiation with the Philippine government started in 1997. It was an off and on negotiation for 17 years interrupted oftentimes by resumption of hostilities, when the parties fail to agree peace talks are often delayed.
It needs a lot of patience and determination. But the MILF leadership always maintained its policy of openness to negotiation. Despite some cases of unavoidable armed struggle we kept our door open for resumption of negotiation once the other party was ready for talks.
Tell us about the implementation duration, the preparation on the ground and the feelings of your people on the ground about the deal?
A.M.E. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed last March 27, 2014 is warmly welcomed and supported by majority of the Bangsamoro people. It stipulates the drafting of a Basic Law according to the terms of the agreements, to be passed to the Philippine Parliament without derogation of the agreements in order to convert it into Law. After the passage of the Basic Law to Philippine Parliament a plebiscite will be conducted in the territory where the Bangsamoro government will be established for the people to ratify the law. After ratification a transitional government, which will be referred to as Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to be lead by the MILF, will be set up at least one year before the election of a regular Bangsamoro government in May 2016.
In your speech you said the world of today is built on the law of the jungle, kindly explain your experience?
A.M.E. Despite our all claims that we are now in a civilized world the law of the jungle is still eminent, basically the survival of the fittest is still prevailing in our midst. Almost all minorities in every country especially Muslim minorities are subjected to all forms of oppression, injustices, discriminations and all sorts from the hands of the majority, which usually controls the government. In the present World Order, strong nations dominate and dictate upon the weak nations and practically controls every aspect of the lives of the minority.
Muslim world today is facing great security challenge, where is the problem?
A.M.E. One very effective weapon of the enemy of Islam to destroy the Muslims is dividing the Muslim Ummah either supporting or manipulating Internal Conflict among them or creating the conflict by them. It will be observed that all over the Muslim World conflict is very prevalent. Stable Muslim countries are gradually destabilized and Muslim countries having internal conflict are not getting better but worsening. Why this is happening? Obviously it is either the problem is within the Muslim Ummah themselves or there are hidden forces manipulating conflict.
What is the solution?
A.M.E. There is no one sure solution to the problem. However, strengthening unity and solidarity between the Muslim Ummah could help improve the situation. Creating a venue of dialogue for the Muslim Ummah will also contribute. A strong and effective organization of the Muslim countries can help resolve problems facing the Muslim Ummah and improve their relationship.
What is your advice to the Muslim freedom fighters across the world?
A.M.E. Muslim freedom fighters defending their legitimate rights should be more steadfast and patient. They must strengthen to sustain their struggle. However, despite the use of force when necessary, they should maintain the door for dialogue and negotiation always open. Because ultimately lasting solution to any conflict will always be through dialogue and negotiation. Force alone may prevail for sometimes but it will not be permanent.
What are your future political ambitions in the new Bangsamoro autonomous self rule?
A.M.E. As a matter of policy in our organization all decisions are formulated through consultation and collective process. This includes the future of every individual member and officers of the organization including myself. My plan in the future depends on the decision of our organization. As of now we have not yet decided.
Any other message that your wish to put across to our readers?
A.M.E. Yes off course! As Muslims we should always bound ourselves to what Allah Subhana Wa Taala and the prophet and messenger of Allah teaches us. The only way for us to emerge as the best of Ummah as promised by Allah is to uphold and invite others to do what is right and forbid what is wrong. In short, we must always struggle to be a righteous Muslim in all aspect of our life in order to succeed, insha Allah.
Thank you so much for you time.
A.M.E: Your most welcomed.
Mohammed Kahiya is Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance International Affairs representative and a member of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations.