AFTER 9/11, the United States and its allies have waged a war on terrorism, on al-Qaida and similar groups, and on violent extremism not only with Islamist groups but even with white supremacists.
Even prior to 9/11, as a Muslim living in Mindanao, I have already been engaged in a battle of ideas in an attempt to win hearts and minds of the Bangsamoro people and promote the view that Islam, jihad, and Shariah are positive contributions of Muslims for the promotion of common good and social justice.
In more than fifteen years of experience and work in peace building within the Bangsamoro, I have learned that the military strategy of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency are not enough to address violent conflict in Mindanao.
Moro fronts are continuously evolving as new youth who claim to be freedom fighters emerged in the communities along with their supporters bringing with them narratives about Islam and the importance of building an Islamic State with Shariah principles that looks into the literal interpretation of the sacred texts within the Holy Qur'an, Sunnah and Hadith of our prophet Muhammad (SAW).
The present discourse in the study of terrorism is the theory that there is a process of developing extremist ideologies and beliefs which is a precondition called "radicalization".
Academics and security experts assumes that if we try to counter these extremist ideologies, then we may mitigate or even eliminate the influence that they gained from schools, communities, madrasahs, and mosques. As a result, we may minimize violent conflict.
Following this line of thought, we recognize the presence of extremist ideology. Although, the United Nations have not yet fully defined the word extremism, the common definition most governments accept is that extremism is defined as opposition to common good and social justice.
Therefore, to prevent terrorism, applying this principle, the government should intervene to suppress the expression of extremist opinions and demand that the rule of law must be followed.
But these things are easier said than done. In the Mindanao context, we face both challenges of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, while a Bangsamoro peace process is happening.
Our government is finalizing a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, while there are groups like the Abu Sayaff, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and others, on the ground that recruit and mobilize their communities to advance their agenda.
There are also jobless youth who are being recruited to Daesh or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
The ASG and Biff are threats to our peace and national security. They may have their local agenda, but they also project that they have strong ties and links with international groups like Al Qaida and Isis.
They claim responsibility in series of bombings in Central Mindanao, kidnappings in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi Tawi areas, and even beheading their kidnap victims.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Security sector are always alert to keep watch for any indication of a terrorist attack.
Recent studies have shown that efforts to focus on radicalization and radical ideologies in order to get ahead of the terrorism problem can be confusing and problematic.
According to Randy Borum, senior editor, Journal of Strategic Security, "Most radicals did not (and do not) engage in terrorism, and many terrorists did not (and do not) "radicalize" in any traditional sense."
Borum added, "Adherence to radical beliefs is not irrelevant to countering terrorism or advancing broader global security interests, but fanatically embracing an ideology is neither a proxy for, nor a necessary precursor to, terrorism. Conflating the two concepts undermines our ability to effectively counter either of them."
As a response to this complex issue, the Al Qalam of the Ateneo de Davao University will be conducting an activity entitled Redefining Radicalization: Streamlining PVE/CVE Efforts of Institutions on March 16-18, 2017. This activity will have two phases.
On March 16, Al Qalam will be collating PVE/CVE efforts of institutions, CSOs, and academe, and on March 17 to 18, will be a presentation of output and an International Experts’ Meeting.
The overall objective of the activity is to understand further the definition, nature, and drivers of radicalization that may or may not lead to violent conflict.
It also follows what John Horgan, author of the article "From Profiles to Pathways and Roots to Routes: Perspectives from Psychology on Radicalization into Terrorism," has argued, we need to be less focused on why people engage in terrorism and more focused on how they become involved.
The second part of this article will include key points of the output of the activity mentioned.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 15, 2017.
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