Countering Islamism and Islamists in Muslim Mindanao


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What is Islamism?  Who are the Islamists?  We need to talk about this militant Islamic ideology, considering that Muslim countries all over are slowly becoming Islamist every day.  Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, and Indonesia are some of those countries that are embracing a  kind of Islam that is puritanical and intolerant.  In Indonesia, Christians are feeling unsafe, sexual minorities are hunted, and atheists are hiding.  Was Indonesia like that a decade ago?  I don’t think so.

Purist Indonesian Islamists are now killing other Muslims too.  They harass and abuse those who practice a different kind of Islam.  Ismaili, Ahmadi, and even Sufi Muslims are being persecuted as I write this post.  This is not fear mongering; the Philippines is in the global jihad map of the Islamists.  Should we learn a lesson from the experience of Indonesia now or later when it’s all too late?   Now Mr. President, are you sure with your Bangsamoro project?

Islamism is the religion-based political and militant ideology of the extremist, fundamentalist, and jihadist Muslims.  Not all Muslims are Islamists, but almost all Muslims are silent about Islamism and Islamists in their midst.  I view such silence as their passive and tacit support.  Osama bin Laden and the Janjalani brothers of Abu Sayyaf were Islamists, and that makes their supporters Islamists too.  Let’s simplify things.

*  Islam – Religion of Muslims

         *  Sunni Islam – Major Branch of Islam

                   *  Islamism – Islamic Political Ideology  

                            *  Wahhabism – Saudi Arabia – Finance and Scholarship

                            *  Salafism – Egypt – Movement and Organization

                            *  Talibanism – Afghanistan – Training and Operation

                                     *   Al-Qaeda – Afghanistan –  Global Base

                                                *   Jemaah Islamiah – Indonesia – Southeast Asian Cell

                                                           *  Abu Sayyaf – Philippines – Local Islamist Group

The Islamist network is more complicated than that, but that step by step categorization only includes the major players for simple presentation and easy understanding.  The Wahhabis finance jihads and educate or indoctrinate jihadis.  Jihad here is the violent and deadly kind not the soft inner struggle.  Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, the founder of Abu Sayyaf, went to Saudi Arabia in the eighties to study, and he got some funding from the group of bin Laden and used it  to organize his group in Basilan in 1991–yes, I do read the biographies and the obituaries of notorious individuals.  Bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia, and he was part of the Wahhabi groups that globally finance jihads.

The Philippine government should acknowledge that the money of the Wahhabis and the global movement of the Salafis have already reached our shores, so the common people will know and wake up.  It should also reveal that there are Filipino Muslims who go to Afghanistan or Pakistan for training in terrorism and there are terrorist foreigners from Southeast Asian countries who are already in Mindanao.  The government must tell the Filipino people that the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao is now dangerously ideological and well-supported by foreign Islamist groups.  We can no longer deny the existence of Islamism in our country.

Why these Islamists think the Philippines is an Islamic land is beyond me.  Do they think the early settlers of the archipelago now called the Philippines were already Muslims even  before the arrival of Karim ul-Makhdum in 1380?  The ancestors of the Filipino Muslims of today were animist lumads or natives who prayed to anitos or spirits before the Islamization of the region now called Muslim Mindanao.  Filipino historians and anthropologists should really come out and speak up, so the myth that Mindanao belongs to the Muslims can be corrected.  Had Makhdum not arrvied, we would not have this Muslim Mindanao conflict.   Tausugs, Yakans, Bajaos, Maranaos, and Maguindanaos would have been just another indigenous or ethnic groups in Mindanao like the non-Muslim Bagobos, Mandayas, and Mansakas of the Davao region.

Besides military response, how can we counter Islamism in Mindanao?  I think we can use the Philippine Constitution.  It says that every Filipino has the right to education.  The Supreme Court has to define “education”.   Do memorizing Quran and reading the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Sira) everyday and all year round qualify as education?  We should learn from the Pakistani experience.  Islamists in Pakistan use madrassas–religious schools–as recruitment centers and training grounds for future Pakistani jihadis.

To force Muslim children in Mindanao to study Islam should be declared unconstitutional.  One of the reasons why I support Charter Change is my belief that freedom of thought and right to knowledge should be added to our constitution. We also need the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in this regard.  Dr. Josette Biyo, when are you going to open the Philippine Science High School in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?  We need more Muslim youth who are capable of thinking critically, rationally, and logically.  We need them to counter the growing numbers of Islamist-indoctrinated zombies.

Another thing that can counter Islamism is what I call ideological capitalism.  If Islamism is the only ideology that dominates the Muslim discourse in Mindanao, that’s ideological monopoly, a dangerous situation in which Islamists can freely preach violence and do what they want with the impressionable minds of the Muslim youth.  Muslim Mindanao has to have a bunch of ideologies to drown the loud noises of those Islamists.  Filipino intellectuals should support Muslim feminists, Muslim socialists, Muslim freethinkers, Muslim rationalists–if they exist in Muslim Mindanao.

The Philippine media can help too by airing programs about the Islamic countries where Sharia Law is implemented and the  strictest form of Islam is practiced, so the Filipino Muslims will be better informed with issues and events happening in those countries.   For Example, all TV stations should broadcast this news: “Taliban Beheads Two Boys in Southern Afghanistan.”  Filipino Muslims should know the violent truth about Islamists, so they can decide whether beheadings, stonings, hangings done in the name of their religion are the daily realities they want to have.  They need to know what Islamism is, so they can choose well whether to embrace the foreign or the local and whether to practice the extreme or the moderate–if such thing exists.  Let me quote what Amir Baraguir of Cotabato City said in 2003:

 “We might wake up one day and find that the rigid foreign-influenced Islamic beliefs have replaced our own distinct cultural identity.”

I think we should listen.

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