We are standing on the edge of a cliff and we don’t even know it!
Underneath the piles of issues about the presidency, extra judicial killings, war on drugs, traffic, foreign policy, crime and injustice is a pressing problem that requires our greatest concern. The presence of violent extremism has slowly crept its way into our doorsteps as we hashed out our personal opinions on other issues.
What is Violent Extremism?
The danger of violent extremism has now become more crucial than ever in the Philippines particularly in Mindanao. Violent extremism as defined by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation is, “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals.” Basically, it is committing a violent act in order to reach a specific goal that is extremist in nature.
I am Mindanao deals with ideological violent extremism such as the rise in jihadist ideologies in Mindanao. Several Filipino terror groups have openly pledged support to ISIS earlier this year. This places the whole country under a big threat.
Violent Extremist vs Domestic Terrorist
There is a difference between a violent extremist and a domestic terrorist.
A violent extremist is defined as, “a person who advocates, is engaged in, or is preparing to engage in ideologically motivated terrorist activities (including providing support to terrorism) in furtherance of political or social objectives promoted by a foreign terrorist organization.”
This refers to groups that do acts of violence in order to support the agenda of foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS. In the country, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar al-Khilafah are just some of the renowned violent extremist groups.
On the other hand, a domestic terrorist is, “a person who engages in unlawful acts of violence to intimidate civilian populations or attempt to influence domestic policy without direction from or influence by a foreign actor.” This includes racist, anti-government, and environmental extremists.
The New People’s Army (NPA) is one of the anti-government, domestic terrorist organizations in the country. They’ve been in combat against the government for the longest time in order to advance their own versions of a better Philippines.
You’re at Risk
One does not need to be involved with a terrorist group in order to be considered a violent extremist. A young person sitting inside his room who is actively engaged in social media can be an easy prey for these people. As stated above, the mere act of advocating and supporting these ideologies can already place you under the category of a violent extremist.
A number of young people from the United States reportedly moved to Syria and Iraq because they were recruited by the ISIS through social media. They were exposed to extremist ideological material on Facebook, Twitter, and several blog sites.
In Mindanao, there have been reports of ISIS recruitments on campuses. They prey on those who live in poverty and offer them benefits they can’t refuse or coerce them into joining with threats. Moreover, they are on social media already. Given the Islamic State’s wide network, it is very easy for a persuasive message to land on your newsfeed any time.
You may not be aware of it but you might have been consuming messages embedded with extremist ideologies on the internet. Thus, it is very important that we protect ourselves from these attacks by staying informed and vigilant at all times. We may not be able to stop their planned attacks but we can put an end to the growth of their ideologies and supporters.
The threat of violent extremism is very real and it shouldn’t be dismissed as nonsense. Sadly, prominent news media outlets are not picking up on this and continue to leave a lot of people in the dark as to what is really happening. Preventive measures should be undertaken immediately before everything blows up right in our faces. If we don’t start today, we might wake up to a Mindanao that is no longer ours tomorrow. #ChallengingExtremism #IamMindanao
Words by Adam Anay