A DISTSURBING video is being shared online of how the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) killed and mutilated members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) in Shariff Saidona. In connection with this, I spoke about how ISIS ideology is still present here in Mindanao. I was able to connect this as to how this affects the Bangsamoro moving forward, and what this means for the BARMM. It is still a challenge that we in the government must address and find concrete solutions to solve.
What I want to discuss now is the problem of religious extremism in the national and international scale, as well as throughout history. ISIS was able to create fear and cover much ground by twisting the Islamic faith, the teachings of the Prophet and the Quran to fit their own means. The “those who are not with us are against us” mentality has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
Similar problems have been faced by Christianity before, where they label all those of their different faith as infidels and heretics. Examples of this include the Spanish Inquisition, where the Catholic rulers of Spain sought to forcibly convert their subjects to their faith. When they refused, they were burned at the stake. This was also the justification for their conquest of the Philippines during this time period. Similar justification are being used by the ISIS/BIFF, labelling fellow Muslims as kafirs or murtads. Looking at this problem, the Bangsamoro can learn a lot from the history of the Catholic faith.
Spanish rule turned the Philippines into a Roman Catholic majority, and this influence often dominates national politics and policy. This has led to policy that is geared mainly towards those of similar backgrounds. Representation from minorities, such as the Bangsamoro and IP communities, is necessary if we want to be truly inclusive in our laws. The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is borne out of the struggle of Filipino Muslims to be seen on the national scale, and to hold government according to our customs and traditions the way that other Filipinos do.
However, there are issues that are same to not just every Filipino, but to every multicultural and multi-ethnic society. Religion is often used to draw lines between people, but we think differently in Al Qalam. We believe that our differences are what make us strong, and that is still possible to find common ground.
Religious extremism did not start with ISIS. It is in fact only the most recent in a series of conflicts that have been brought about by extremist views. It is also not exclusive to Islam. At its core, Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood. What is happening in the areas of Iraq, Syria, and other former ISIS strongholds is not tolerable to any real Muslim. The same is also with what is happening in the “SPMS Box”, which stands for the areas of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Salibo in Maguindanao.
Our problems in Mindanao are only part of the global wave of terror that has been brought about by the IS. We must look at history and learn from the mistakes of the past. No faith is exempt -- Christians, Muslims, and other people of different faiths are capable of incredible violence. It is up to us to examine how these ideologies develop and how we can address them moving forward.
This is often the case for people who commit crimes in the name of their “faith.” There are parallels between then and now, but we also now have information and research that can be put to use to address the root causes of faith-driven violent extremism.
To look at how we can address our differences, one example is the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This proclamation must be a living document for all of us in the Bangsamoro to learn, apply, and adapt in our day to day lives. The sooner we realize this, the more we can work towards a sustainable, positive peace.