Lidasan: The antidote to violent extremism: EBBL of 2017

Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan

OUR road to peace is currently under threat because of violent extremist groups operating in Mindanao today. They are destabilizing our peace efforts and expanding their network and waiting to strike again like what they did in Marawi City. The best way to prevent this from happening, we need to pass into law the Enhanced Bangsamoro Basic Law of 2017.

In understanding further the nature of violent extremism Nancy Lindborg, United States Institute of Peace (USIP) president, said, "Violent extremism in today’s globalized and technology-driven world is not confined by borders. While the dynamics around groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and the Taliban are interrelated and certainly influenced by geopolitics, the reasons these groups emerged and the reasons individuals join their campaigns are complex, distinct, and locally unique. Recently, the tragedies in Brussels, Paris and Turkey demonstrate the global reach of violent extremists." (April 12, 2016)

This observation is valid even in our local context in Mindanao. We have seen foreign terrorist fighters helping the Maute Group and even the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The world became borderless because of globalization and advancement of technology.

Early studies have shown that there are numerous drivers and enablers for violent extremists to grow within the communities. Some experts on CVE would still argue that the one thing that is increasingly fueling violent extremism is poverty. However, in some cases, poverty is not the reason why we have violent extremists operating in major cities in the world and kill innocent civilians. The profiles of these individuals vary from one person to the other. Their inspiration and motives may also be different. But they are well connected to the internet and social media. Some may even come from affluent families. Their only common denominator is the grievance and the perception that Islam and the Muslims all around the world are oppressed and being persecuted. Hence, it is hard to detect them and deter their plans of committing violence.

But not all who sympathize on the plight of the Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, even in our local context in Mindanao and Marawi City, are convinced to become a violent extremist or join groups that adheres to the principles of violence.

Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director of the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, said, "violent extremism can be best conceptualized as a kaleidoscope of factors, creating infinite individual combinations."

He added, "There are some basic primary colors which create complex interlocking combinations: 1) individual socio-psychological factors; 2) social factors; 3) political factors; 4) ideological and religious dimensions; 5) the role of culture and identity issues; 6) trauma and other trigger mechanisms; and three other factors that are a motor for radicalization: 7) group dynamics; 8) radicalizes/groomers; and 9) the role of social media. It is the combined interplay of some of these factors that causes violent extremism."

Looking at our local context in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro, almost all of these "colors" or factors he mentioned are present. Therefore, it is not only about poverty or lack of good governance that fuels violent extremists to grow within our communities.

Let us discuss briefly some of the "colors" that he mentioned. The factor on "Individual socio-psychological" includes grievances and emotions such as: alienation and exclusion; anger and frustration; grievance and a strong sense of injustice; feelings of humiliation; rigid binary thinking; a tendency to misinterpret situations; conspiracy theories; a sense of victimhood; personal vulnerabilities; counter-cultural elements. These sound very familiar within the psyche of the Moro people.

Another factors include: a. social factors, which include social exclusion; marginalization and discrimination (real or perceived); limited education or employment; an element of displacement; criminality; lack of social cohesion and self-exclusion; b. political factors, which include grievances framed around victimhood against Western foreign policy and military intervention. The central core of this narrative is that the ‘West is at war with Islam’, which creates a narrative of ‘them and us’. The whole narrative of the Bangsamoro people's struggle to right to self-determination is anchored on these two factors.

We can also see two other factors present within the Bangsamoro: a. "Ideological/religious factors include a sacred historical mission and belief in apocalyptic prophesy; a salafi-jihadi interpretation of Islam; a violent jihadi mission; a sense that Islam is under siege and a desire to protect ummah under assault. These beliefs also include the view that Western society embodies immoral secularism"; b. "Culture and identity crisis relates to cultural marginalization, which produces alienation and a lack of belonging to either home or the parents’ society. This reinforces religious solidarity with Muslims around the world." The question of being a Bangsamoro vs. being a Filipino interplays with politics of identity.

The prolonged resolution of addressing the Bangsamoro peace process (more than four decades), has led to the problem to evolve in to wide array of factors on the macro-, meso-, and micro- levels. This is the main reason why we need to support the Enhanced Bangsamoro Basic Law (EBBL) of 2017. There has to be a political solution to address the Bangsamoro conflict and to properly decommission Moro combatants and other private armed groups operating within Mindanao and the Bangsamoro region.

Many Filipinos are still naive and refuse to understand the real situation on the ground. Their prejudices and biases can properly be addressed if they study the EBBL. They need to get their facts straight. Our government agencies, schools and universities, civil society organizations and non-government organizations must work together for peace and to ensure that our nation will understand the importance of passing this bill in Congress and Senate. This is our local antidote in addressing the problems on violent extremism.