On violent radicalism

The rising radicalisation of peoples especially the younger generation continues to be the concern of everybody. The MILF is not an exception. 

But radicalization, per se, is not bad, because it is way to shortcut the pathway if the normal course is so circuitous, rough or bumpy. The word radical” is popularly used to designate individuals, parties, and movements that wish to alter drastically any existing practice, institution, or social system.

Radicalism is also used to evoke associations with extremism, instability and an absolutist approach to politics. Many governments have a propensity for dismissing people and ideas with such labels. Terms like "socialist", "communist", and “leftists” are frequently hurled at those who dare to promote substantial programs that address poverty, or suggest that government provide what many other "developed nations" deem fundamental services. Anyone who openly identifies with such positions is assumed to have nothing legitimate to contribute to public debate, irrespective of the plausibility, merit, and true ideology informing their arguments.

The truth, however, is that radicalism can become a problem if the proponents use violent to achieve their aims. This is the reason why the MILF through its peace implementing panel, with support from the European Union and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), hosted a two-day conference in Davao City on January 12-13 on the “Role of Bangsamoro Youth in the Pursuit of Peace in Mindanao”. It was well-attended, mostly youths from 18-35. The resource persons ranged from scholars of Islam to senior leaders of the MILF, MNLF Nur Misuari, and MNLF Moslemin Sema. Atty. Bong Parcasio and Hatimil Hassan represented the two MNLF factions, respectively, while Mohagher Iqbal spoke for the MILF.

Parcasio had made a well-prepared presentation, and Hassan, on the other hand, had to cut short his stay for an important trip overseas. Iqbal’s presentation dealt on the MILF responses to violent radicalism in Mindanao. He started his presentation by citing some of the verses of the Qurán related to violent radicalism, which Islam prohibited, to wit:

Allah says: “… Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…” Qur’an Chapter 5, Verse 32

“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.” Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 190

“But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful,” Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 192.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), as narrated in Hadith Sahih Bukhari, said: “On the morning of Al-Aqabah, while he was on his mount, the Messenger of Allah said to me: "Pick up (some pebbles) for me." So I picked up some pebbles for him that were the size of date stones or fingertips, and when I placed them in his hand he said: "Like these. And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters."

Iqbal then summarized the MILF responses to violent radicalism, as follows:

1)      MILF issued an official declaration that we are against any form of violent extremism whether religious, political, economic, cultural, etc. Islam and the MILF are against any of its forms;

2)      MILF has formed a task force to study and address the spread of violent extremism especially religious, in the light of the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group also made extensive research on the history of this group and the personalities around it especially Abubakar Al-Bagdhadi, who was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq but released from jail in 2009;

3)      MILF sparingly uses dialogue to reach out to known radical individuals or their relatives and explain to them the stand of the MILF on Islam, problem in Mindanao, and global injustice. Our main focus are young people in and outside of schools, colleges, and universities. We also use the social media in many aspects. In a modest degree, we have scored some successes;

4)      MILF establishes linkages with other groups, organizations  especially religious, both Islamic and non-Islamic to spread the message of peace, because all real religions teach peace amongst peoples;

5)      MILF signed with government some agreements specifically the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to interdict and isolate kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in or near MILF communities. Kidnapping is almost zero for years in areas where the MILF is strong especially in Central Mindanao; and

6)      MILF’s catch-all approach is to strengthen the MILF in all aspects, because a strong organization can deal with anyone or anything in a position of advantage. If there are no open areas and the strength of, say MILF, is greatly felt, then newcomers cannot linger on.