FIELD NOTES AND REFLECTION ON THE MEANING OF ‘VIOLENT EXTREMISM’ (2023)

FIELD NOTES AND REFLECTION ON THE MEANING OF ‘VIOLENT EXTREMISM’ (1)

My peacebuilding colleague seems to have lost his confidence in non-violence. In an online conversation, he said: “Kaka Lakan, we have tried applying active non-violent approaches. Ten years. Ten long years… They’re killing us slowly… We might as well die fighting. Sorry, I’ll have to pick up my equipment again…”

Such were the words of Hassan (not his real name), a 29-year old Bangsamoro male from Central Mindanao. I assume he meant M16 automatic rifle and its accessories when he mentioned “equipment.”

I first met him when he was in high school. He used to accompany us around Ligawasan Marsh while distributing relief goods among his village folks in the midst of escalating armed skirmishes. Hassan actively participated in our peacebuilding training and completed the course with much enthusiasm. I saw him grow from being a responsible 19-year old peacebuilding volunteer into a young Moro intellectual who articulated and struggled for the liberation of his people from historical injustices. He was then convinced that Bangsamoro autonomy was possible through active non-violent means.

I immediately invited him to travel to Davao. We had a couple of days sharing hearts and minds like true brothers.

Just before his trip back home, we had coffee together. We gave each other a brotherly hug after a couple of hours of conversation. I said, “See you again.”

He replied with a sad smile: “Bye, Kaka.”

(Video) The Changing Threat Landscape of Terrorism and Violent Extremism

It was then that I posted a quote on social media. It served as a humbling, soul-searching note to myself:

“I want to sound a note of caution amidst any celebrations of Mennonite peacebuilding about the pitfalls of Christian pacifist triumphalism—and with it make a plea for a measure of humility regarding the power of nonviolent alternatives to war…

But Christian pacifists would do well, I suggest, to recognize that in some situations they will have no clear peacebuilding options to advance, no obvious nonviolent alternatives to offer—and that recognition can and should drive them to prayerful silence.”

~Alain Epp Weaver, Strategic Planning, Mennonite Central Committee

I kept silent for a couple of days. In my bedroom. Alone. Humbled.

A few days later, I found out that Hassan blocked me from our social networking connection. His friends told me that he joined a “violent extremist” group.

The language of Violent Extremism has become a popular term here in Mindanao. In most of the seminars and discussions I’ve attended, the definitions used were somehow similar to what Wikipedia posted: “Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically motivated violence to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views. Violent extremist views can be exhibited along a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. No society, religious community or worldview is immune to violent extremism.”

Most of us in the civil society refer to this simply as VE. I like how Andrew Glazzard–a security consultant, andMartine Zeuthen–an anthropologist, examine this ‘VE category’. I resonate with their questions:“Is violent extremism, by definition, something carried out by non-state actors? In conflict situations, how can we differentiate violent extremists from other, more legitimate conflict actors? Does violent extremism always have to be ideological – can it, for example, be criminal, or even purposeless? Is ‘violent extremism’ merely a synonym for ‘terrorism’? More fundamentally, are terms like ‘extremism’ relative – in which case does ‘violent extremism’ mean different things to different people? These are not merely academic questions: what we call a phenomenon helps determine how we see it and what we do in response to it.

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Personally, I don’t like this term. There’s so much confusion in the use of this language.Jason-Leigh Striegher, in his 2015 study at the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Securityat the Charles Sturt University in Sydney, Australia, said:“By reviewing some of the current definitions of radicalisation, violent-extremism and terrorism in policy documents and academic literature, pertinent points within each have emerged…although the processes of radicalisation, the ideology of violent extremism and the act of terrorism have interdependent relationships, they are in fact three distinct terms that must be clearly understood.By examining each term and its definitions in isolation, a palpable distinction for each was evidenced and a revitalised definition for violent-extremism was proposed. Though acts of terror are not solely a derivative of the radicalisation process, understanding the relationship between the two is paramount to successfully countering violent-extremism. In isolating the three terms we are able to reduce misrepresentation; appreciate and successfully address root-cause issues; devise more pointed policies and programs for intervention; and cope with relevant legal statutes more effectively.”

My readings also brought me to thethoughts of Prof. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou.He mentioned that violent extremism is fueled by three key factors, namely: alienation, retribution, and dispossession.

I saw some aspects of Hassan’s journey through these lenses.

Alienation. Hassan felt judged after the death of the 44 police commandos during the 2015 Mamasapano debacle.Being a young rural Moro who is committed to the liberation of his people primarily through the Peace Process, he worked alongside with non-Moro peacebuilding volunteers. Many of his friends in the civil society questioned the sincerity of the Bangsamoro after Mamasapano. Hassan felt left out in a number of meetings among peace advocates after Mamasapano: “Kaka, they forgot to invite me again. This is the fourth time they have forgotten to send me invitation. Am I still part of the committee?”

His Moro friends in their original hometown started expressing their doubts in the effectiveness of the peace process. They challenged Hassan if he was “with them” or “with us”. He was pretty sure that “them” — the Indigenous People and Christian peacebuilding volunteers — were “with us.” But more and more, he felt the gap between his Moro community and his non-Moro civil society colleagues in that particular town where he lives.

During our last coffee meeting, he felt the Mindanao Peace Process as merely the government’s way to appease them into inactivity while they perpetuate the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro. “I don’t believe they will really pass the BBL in Congress,” he said. The BBL is the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now facing tough challenges in the Philippine House of Representatives. “It seems,” he continued while pointing his cup of coffee at me, “nothing will happen in your active non-violent approach.” I was feeling his angst even as he did his best to show respect with his naturally-meek personality.

Retribution.Seven of Hassan’s clan members have been killed in this armed-conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Two of them were his male, combat-aged cousins. They grew up and played together as children. During times of escalated armed skirmishes, they learned together how to survive weeks, and even months, in evacuation centers.

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The death of his cousins prompted him to question the effectiveness of armed struggle. That was the main factor why he volunteered as a peace worker and decided to proceed with a college education.

Right now, he seeks justice. He clarified to me that he understands “the difference between seeking revenge and seeking justice.” But this time, he will seek justice “within Islamic processes”.

“The Philippine justice system,” he complained, “is for the rich and for the powerful families only, Kaka.” And I agreed. I just don’t know what he exactly meant by “Islamic processes.”

Dispossession. Hassan also saw the loss of their family’s source of livelihood. Because of the cycle of armed skirmishes since his childhood, his parents were not able to sustain their rice farming. They lost their rice fields to money lenders who are based in a nearby city — mostly Christians. His parents now subsists through various seasonal employment with local business families.

Hassan’s friends told me that his family received financial assistance from a local Islamic organization. The same organization invited Hassan to join them in a renewed struggle that is “more Islamic.”

When I asked them what they meant by “more Islamic,” they simply said, “Extremist. What else?”

“Extremism,” according to Prof. Mohamedou, “is often the failure of a society, or indeed the acts of a state that can create the conditions for the ill to materialise or persist.”

(Video) Combatting Domestic Terrorism in The United States

The story of Hassan, however, may not be the big picture in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Arecent study conducted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) presents a more hopeful horizon. Their research findings are worth noting here in full:

  • There was no large-scale radicalization of young Muslims in Mindanao.
  • Almost all Muslim young people had at least a basic understanding of mainstream Islamic principles, but there was very limited understanding of the concepts used by extremists.
  • Overall, young people knew little about specific VE groups beyond the Abu Sayyaf(70%) and ISIS(51%).
  • In all four provinces, there was a minority of young people who expressed sympathy for VE groups believing they were “fighting to defend Islam” and “fighting against oppression.”
  • Youth respondents affirmed the presence of recruiters of VE groups in their community who drove people to being radicalized.
  • There was not a single type of individual that VE groups targeted for recruitment.
  • The survey respondents in all provinces believed that education was a key solution to the problems brought about by VE.

I also appreciate the recommendations listed in the said study:

RECOMMENDATIONS TO PREVENT VIOLENT EXTREMISM

There is no single panacea to prevent the spread of a violent ideology or prevent people from joining extremist groups. However, considering the findings of this research, the following responses are suggested:
1. Adopt a comprehensive policy framework to prevent and counter violent extremism upon which national, regional, and local government units can develop and coordinate long-term programs on prevention and short-term programs on mitigation. This policy framework should guide the action ofinternational donors.
2. Mainstream the value of Islamic moderation (wasatiyyah) in Muslim communities. The Government of the Philippines should cooperate with civil society, educational institutions, and religious networks to spreadmessages of inclusive Muslim beliefs to young people.
3. Develop materials so that leaders in formal and informal education system can ensure that all young people understand how extremist groups operate and the negative effects of joining extremist groups on themselves, their families, and their communities.
4. Promote a high-quality and moderate Islamic education sector. This should include facilitating the adoption of common supervision, accreditation, and standardization of curricula to ensure that the teaching and learning is consistent with mainstream Islamic philosophy.
5. Keep the public school system secular and use it and the informal education system as a platform for building inclusive culture, mutual trust, and understanding of unity in diversity.
6. Provide young people with genuine opportunities for accessible quality education both in the basic and collegiate levels for them to get jobs and employment here or abroad.
7. Provide avenues for young people to express their grievances in a nonviolent manner through various forms of peaceful processes.
8. Provide programs for people who show signs of post traumatic syndrome after exposure to violence and conflict.
9. Invest in high-quality and contextually-appropriate delivery of government services in areas at high-risk of extremism, particularly education and health services.
10. Fast-track the passage and implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)/Enabling Law/New Autonomy Law that would address poverty and the lack of development through the efficient, effective, and responsive self-governance by way of implementing peace agreements with the MNLFand MILF.
11. Increase public and private investments with programs to attract business towards job creation in areas at high-risk of extremism.
12. Ensure all government jobs are provided in a meritocratic and nondiscriminatory process.
13. Ensure that all young people understand, both in school and out-of-school, how extremist groups operate as well as the negative effects of joining extremist groups on themselves, their families, and their communities.
14. Facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of the people who were previously involved in extremist groups.

While there is an important role for Government, the Muslim community itself can be at the forefront of developing solutions to extremism. Through a process of collective reflection and leadership, it is possible to pursue the many solutions to violent extremism that are rooted in traditional institutions and practices fundamental to well functioning Muslim communities.

Research on Youth Vulnerability to Violent Extremism in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Institute for Autonomy and Governance)
(Video) Paper Launch - Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Through Education Initiatives

I hope to meet Hassan again and continue our decade-long relationship as peacebuilding brothers. I pray for his safety. I pray that even in our differences in pursuing justice and peace, we would still seek to continue our interfaith dialogue and cooperation. My faith-based non-violent approach and his faith-based armed-struggle approach may be considered by many as two extremes in a wide spectrum of approaches towards radical transformation. But I’m determined to continue connecting with Hassan, and many of those like him, by building bridges of genuinerelationship which is characterized by transparentcommunication,that would lead to empathy, and then eventually lead to mutual trust.

Because of Hassan and others like him, my commitment to this faith-based, active non-violent approach to peacebuilding is more strengthened in the midst of this discourse on a construct we refer to asviolent extremism.

FAQs

What is the meaning of violent extremism? ›

Violent extremism is the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve ideological, religious or political goals. This includes terrorism and other forms of politically motivated and communal violence.

What is your understanding of extremism? ›

What is extremism? Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

What are some examples of violent extremism? ›

Extremist movements — such as ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Shabab — fuel, and often stem from, instability and violent conflict and present a complex challenge.

What causes violent extremism? ›

Other than socioeconomic conditions and the lack of democracy, many observers point to the role of injustices in driving violent extremism. Some propositions have explored issues of economic marginalization and social alienation as factors that lead to radicalization.

What are the main types of extremism? ›

​Extremism and radicalisation can happen in many different ways and it is important that we define and understand the different types of extremism and radicalisation.
  • Domestic Extremism. ...
  • Violent Extremism. ...
  • Radicalisation.

What are the characteristics of extremism? ›

Extremism is essentially a political term which determines the activities that are not in accordance with norms of the state, are fully intolerant toward others, reject democracy as a means of governance and the way of problem solving and also reject the existing social order.

What is the role of extremist? ›

The extremist leaders involved wider sections of people in the movement. They involved lower-middle-class people also. They did not stick to constitutional methods to protest and demand. They resorted to boycotts, strikes, etc.

What is your understanding of Radicalisation and extremism? ›

Radicalisation is the process through which an individual or group develops extreme political, social or religious beliefs. Violent extremism is when a person or group uses fear, terror or violence to try and achieve change.

What is a sentence for extremist? ›

Extremists in the party view him as too conservative. A group of extremists took several hostages.

What are the effects of violent extremism? ›

People who have been living in an uncertain situation due to the regular occurrence of violent extremism, develop fear of everything and internalise trauma. This can lead to a metamorphosis of the psyche, mental decomposition and loss of confidence in oneself and others.

What is preventing violent extremism? ›

Preventing violent extremism is a commitment and obligation under the principles and values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal. Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.

What are the three drives of extremism? ›

The three drivers of violent extremism

The drivers of violent extremism identified across these communities can be broadly categorised as: Structural conditions. Individual incentives. Enabling factors.

Who is a extremist person? ›

extremist in British English

(ɪkˈstriːmɪst ) noun. 1. a person who favours or resorts to immoderate, uncompromising, or fanatical methods or behaviour, esp in being politically radical. adjective.

What is the role of education in the prevention of violent extremism? ›

Education has a powerful role to play in long-term prevention of violent extremism by equipping learners with the right skills and competencies, increasing employment opportunities and empowering youth.

What is the government definition of extremism? ›

The government's definition of extremism. The vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

Who was the leader of extremist? ›

Extremists, on the other hand, believed in agitation, strikes and boycotts to force their demands. Some of the extremist leaders were Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosem Rajnarayan Bose and Ashwini Kumar Dutt.

Who is the father of extremist? ›

The theory of 'Passive Resistance' was presented by Aurobindo Ghosh, who is known as the Father of Indian Extremism. Aurobindo Ghosh wrote two books, i.e. 'New Lamps for Old', and the other being, 'Savitri'.

What is the meaning of radicalism in history? ›

Radicalism (from French radical, "radical") or classical radicalism was a historical political movement representing the leftward flank of liberalism during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and a precursor to social liberalism, social democracy and modern progressivism.

What is extremism Wikipedia? ›

Extremism is "the quality or state of being extreme" or "the advocacy of extreme measures or views". The term is primarily used in a political or religious sense to refer to an ideology that is considered (by the speaker or by some implied shared social consensus) to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of society.

How can radicalisation be prevented? ›

With increasing concerns about radicalisation of young people there is a need to actively challenge extremist views and prevent young people being drawn into terrorism. Keeping children safe from harm includes keeping them safe from extreme ideologies and behaviours.

What kind of word is extremist? ›

Extremist can be an adjective or a noun.

Where does the word extremist come from? ›

Entries linking to extremist

early 15c., "outermost, farthest;" also "utter, total, in greatest degree" (opposed to moderate), from Old French extreme (13c.), from Latin extremus "outermost, utmost, farthest, last; the last part; extremity, boundary; highest or greatest degree," superlative of exterus (see exterior).

What is a moral extremist? ›

“Roughly, a person is an extremist just in case an intense moral conviction blinds her to competing moral considerations, or else makes her unwilling to qualify her beliefs when she should” (emphasis added).

What are 5 effects of violence? ›

Consequences include increased incidences of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide; increased risk of cardiovascular disease; and premature mortality. The health consequences of violence vary with the age and sex of the victim as well as the form of violence.

What are the drivers of violent extremism? ›

Lack of socio-economic opportunities; Marginalization and discrimination; Poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law; Prolonged and unresolved conflicts, are among the main identified drivers that are considered to be conducive to violent extremism.

How do education and unemployment affect support for violent extremism? ›

individuals are more likely to support violent extremism with unemployed secondary educated people having the highest probability for radicalization followed by tertiary educated unemployed/underemployed.

Is there a difference between extremism and terrorism? ›

No. In fact, some types of extremism don't have anything to do with terrorism. For instance, pacifism has two versions: contingent pacifism, where using violence is allowed in some circumstances, like physical self-defense; and absolute pacifism, where using violence is never allowed.

Who called extremists? ›

Who were the extremists? Ans. In the beginning of the 20th century, a different group emerged which had a rather aggressive approach against the British Empire. This group was called the Extremist and did not believe in the peaceful stance of the Moderate leaders.

What is extremism and its types? ›

Extremism is "the quality or state of being extreme" or "the advocacy of extreme measures or views". The term is primarily used in a political or religious sense to refer to an ideology that is considered (by the speaker or by some implied shared social consensus) to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of society.

What is the Government definition of extremism? ›

The government's definition of extremism. The vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

What are the major reasons for the growth and spread of terrorism? ›

Causes motivating terrorism
  • Independence or separatist movements.
  • Irredentist movements.
  • Adoption of a particular political philosophy, such as socialism (left-wing terrorism), anarchism, or fascism (possibly through a coup or as an ideology of an independence or separatist movement)

Videos

1. M&E Thursday Talks – Countering Violent Extremism An Introductory Guide to Concepts, Programming, a
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2. Webinar "Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic", 30 June 2020
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5. American Homegrown Violent Extremism in the Post-9/11 Era
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6. Results and analysis of the 2022 midterm elections - 11/08 (FULL LIVE STREAM)
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