THE Islamic State (IS) has emerged as a threat not only in the Middle East, but also in Southeast Asia where the democratization process within Muslim communities are developing. In the local context, the Bangsamoro struggle of right to self-determination propelled Muslim rebels in early 1970s to fight the Philippine government. Their main goal was to claim a territory in which they can observe their customs, practices, and govern themselves based on their indigenous and Islamic ways. International law recognizes a people’s right to self-determination, but does not insist on independence as the way to achieve self-government. Thus, the current Philippine government offered a new political entity for the Bangsamoro that is autonomous and within the context of the Philippine constitution.
The peace process with the Bangsamoro people face a challenge among young Filipino Muslim youth who have become impatient of the final result of the peace negotiation. Moreover, after the 9/11, global terrorism has evolved with the rise of new terrorist groups and with new ideals. The Muslim rebellion at the local level also evolved in joining the global jihad. When the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) started a serious negotiations with the Philippine government in 2008, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was formed as a splinter group of the MILF. BIFF is an Islamic separatist organization based in the southern Philippines. It retained the main goal of the MILF which was to seek an independent Islamic state for the Filipino Muslim minority, known as the Moro people. Last year, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Last December 8, 2015, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front issued a statement on their Luwaran website stating as follows:
“As far as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is concerned, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has no foothold (yet) in any part of Mindanao. What probably is here now are a number of youths who seem fascinated by adventure, radicalized by lack of real and genuine world justice, and embittered by mass shedding of Muslim blood in the Middle East… But if these youths grow in number or the alleged threat wrongly handled, like heavy handedness that resulted in collateral damages to civilians, they would eventually be able to take root, organize or even connect to whoever wants to use or help them”.
However, the police and military authorities in Mindanao deny any presence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) members or sympathizers in the region. Last April 21, 2016, I was invited by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy for their 17th Conference to present a paper, “Countering Threat to Democracy and the influence of ISIS in the Filipino Muslim Youth within the proposed Bangsamoro Region”.
This paper aims to examine the impact among the Muslim youth of the possible failure of the current administration in forging a peace agreement with the MILF. It also discussed the impact of radicalization on the Filipino Muslim communities in Southern Philippines which may threaten the future of democracy in the region. The paper also provide specific recommendations in countering the threat of radicalization.
Unfortunately, on my 1st day in Washington DC, April 18, 2016, I got sick and hospitalized at Medstar Washington Hospital Center due to skin allergies. Hence, I was not able to present my paper.
Our work in Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University has always been designed to help our Filipino Muslim communities become active and productive citizens of our country. We work in helping Muslims understand Islam and balance it with modernity and current issues and concerns of humankind.
One of our main program is the establishment of Halal economy and Shariah compliant finance to help uplift the economic conditions of our people. To counter ISIS, we also help promote intra faith dialogue. We work for the education, information, campaign for the Amman Message. The ‘Amman Message’ started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 by H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A relevant point highlighted in ‘Amman Message’ is that acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas. In other words, only a high-ranking Muslim scholar worth his title has the authority to issue religious edict, which oftentimes targets the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The said document is reportedly the largest contemporary ijma (consensus) in the Muslim world, with endorsements from at least 84 countries including those of the late King Abdullah al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar University Rector (mufti) Sheikh Tantawi of Egypt, Sheikh Qaradawi of Qatar, Ayatullah Sistani of Iraq, and Imam Khamene’i of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A pertinent primer could help in the promotion of this significant contemporary intra-faith document among Muslims.
Lastly, the best way for us to counter ISIS narrative in our country is for us to conduct more Interfaith& Intra-faith Forums in University Campuses. Holding interfaith and intra-faith forums in university campuses and preserving this atmosphere within the academe shall be an effective move to stand in the way of recruitment of Muslim youth in the universities and colleges for ISIS-oriented groups. We need to work together in addressing ISIS once and for all.