THERE is something everyone seems to be leaving out in nearly all the discussions about the growing problem on extremism that has been highlighted by the ongoing crisis in Marawi City.
No, it may not be said that none of the ugly things that happened in Marawi City, and in Basilan and Sulu before May 23, did not have anything to do with religion or to be more precise, a perverted form of theology.
Consider what presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during the “Mindanao Hour” briefing aired by the government-owned Radyo ng Bayan on June 10, 2017. In that briefing, Abella stated that Armed Forces chief of staff Eduardo Año “explained that the terrorists had plans to seize Marawi and to proclaim it a caliphate on the first day of Ramadan as Isis did in 2014.”
Abella added: “If things went according to their plans, they would then attack Kampo Ranao.
“Then if things went as they planned, they would rally local Muslims. And if things went as they planned, they would kill as many non-Muslims as they could to prove that they could establish an Islamic State in Asia.”
Some key words: “caliphate,” “Ramadan,” “rally local Muslims,” “Islamic State in Asia.”
Now, where did the idea of establishing a “caliphate” or an “Islamic state” come from if not from religion?
What I am stating is that all the violence resulting from the desire to establish a caliphate are byproducts of religion (not “product” but “byproduct”–there is a difference). The same may be said of the suicide bombing community which is a result of the perversion of theology that falsely promises the would-be “martyr” rewards in the afterlife.
This is the mess of religion–and the same religion, I think, is in the position to clean its own mess.
The sooner we acknowledge and start taking the bull by the horns without fear of offending religious feelings or of being labeled as “blasphemous,” the sooner we can talk about the problem and find a way to put an end to this madness.
The solution may start at home–in this case, the Muslim family which is the basic unit of society. And then Muslim communities, including religious leaders, can help by seriously punching holes into these dangerous ideas.
Kalsoom Bashir, a chaplain at Bristol university who has extensively worked with Muslim communities for over two decades and with a counter-terrorism program, said it is “very important that families actually sit down and talk to each other about what’s happening…
“Talk about how extremist groups are targeting our children to believe in their argument and deconstruct that argument at home,” she told BBC Newsbeat in 2015. “They’re using a very corrupt form of theology… You’ve got to discredit their narrative.”
Military might won’t kill these twisted religious ideas. Military force may provide a band-aid solution but it won’t kill the infection just as what we have seen in Sulu and Basilan, and just as what we are seeing now in Marawi. It will only create “martyrs” in the eyes of the extremist, feed his feelings of persecution, unmet aspirations or a sense of injustice and preconceived notion that his religion or culture is under threat, and fan aflame his religious zeal. That, exactly, is how you propagate religious extremism. Pastilan.