ILIGAN CITY (PIA)–Improving the living conditions of the people and upholding human rights are essential in effectively combating violent extremism.
“If you really want to counter violent extremism, you have to remove the word ‘miserable’ life because once the individual or the person or the common people especially in the far-flung rural areas will live a better life where they have a future to hold on to, then they are least likely to join violent extremism,” said Akram Latiph, director of the Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM), during a forum on preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE).
Latiph said research and surveys conducted by IPDM on violent extremism reveal that extremists take advantage of the hardships and vulnerabilities of the people in rural areas to recruit them in joining their cause.
“Halimbawa, yung lider ng violent extremists sasabihin niya dun sa tao na tingnan mo ang buhay mo, miserable ang buhay mo, wala kang maipakain sa pamilya mo, walang kinabukasan ang mga anak mo. Tutulungan namin ikaw, sumama ka sa amin at bibigyan ka namin ng pera, pag nabigyan ka namin ng pera pwede mo nang pakainin ang pamilya mo. Pagsumama ka sa amin, magtatayo tayo ng Islamic state kung saan lahat ay masagana. Pag nagtagumpay tayo tapos naipatayo natin ang Islamic state masagana ang buhay mo. Pag hindi natin naitayo, hindi tayo nagsucceed, magiging isang Shahid (martyr) ka, and you will go to heaven and you will leave this miserable life,” he stated.
[For example, the leader of violent extremists will tell the person to look at his life and say “your life is miserable, you have nothing to feed your family, your children have no future. We will help you, join us and we will give you money then you can feed your family. Join us, we will build an Islamic state where everything is prosperous. If we succeed in building the Islamic state, your life will be prosperous. If we don’t succeed, you will be a Shahid (martyr), and you will go to heaven and you will leave this miserable life.”]
On the other hand, Prof. Tirmizy Esmail Abdullah of Mindanao State University underscored the importance of upholding human rights and social justice in the fight against extremism.
He said human rights is a very important component in the discussion on PCVE and even in peace conversions.
Abdullah said the cry for human rights violations is one of the drivers used by violent extremists in their narratives to encourage youth to join them.
“Human rights and social justice must be upheld to achieve durable and sustainable peace,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ustadz Abdul Jabbar Montaner emphasized how extremists exploit social media to fuel Islamophobia or anti-Muslim sentiment and sow division making it easier for them to recruit and radicalize.
He stressed that Muslims can combat Islamophobia by showing the true meaning of Islam.
“Kung panonoorin niyo ang mga propaganda ng iba’t-ibang teroristang grupo, isa sa mga ginagamit nila ay ang social media…sa pamamagitan ng pagpapakita ng mga oppression at discrimination laban sa mga Muslim at iba pa. Maraming naeengganyo, naniniwala na sumapi dahil sa propaganda at ito ay isang napakalaking dahilan bakit tayong mga Muslim ay dapat na pag-ingatan natin ang ating relihiyon,” he said.
[If you watch the propaganda of various terrorist groups, one of their medium is social media … by displaying oppression and discrimination against Muslims and others. Many were enticed to join because of this propaganda and this is a very reason why we, Muslims, should guard our religion.]
The PCVE forum held in the municipality of Pantar in Lanao del Norte Saturday was spearheaded by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to intensify awareness and involvement of the local communities in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on PCVE.
“The NCMF has 26 mandates and one of these is peacebuilding especially among Muslim communities in the Philippines. Our program on PCVE is in line with this peacebuilding mandate,” said NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan.
He said the NAP was adopted to avoid a repeat of the 2017 Marawi siege.
“This [PCVE] is an ongoing program, we have started this in Marawi and areas threatened by violent extremists like Cotabato. We also did one in Zamboanga, Cebu, Manila, and recently in the municipality of Bayang which is the doorstep to the towns where the presence of ISIS elements was reported,” he added. (APB/PIA-ICIC)