Books not bombs

“Crazy Rich Asians,” the movie, reminds us of the vast divide between the rich and poor in this universe of cultures and home to the largest religions – Southeast Asia.

Singapore, in particular, may be a melting pot of all who transit, work and even stay here, but religious radicalism continues to be a major concern. We cannot all monitor the next blast which has now its first “suicide bombing” in the Philippines.

One grenade attack in Mindanao affects the country, we reminded the Mindanao Business Conference held at the MSU Iligan IIT Gymnasium. In fact, 30 million a day could be lost in one city. Until now, BARMM, if not Mindanao, continue to be the subject of travel advisories of the US.

Thus this National Peace Consciousness Month, it was timely to join academics, thinktanks and civil society and speak here in Singapore, September 16-17, for a Panel on Countering Extremism: The Next Lap, which was hosted by the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies of the Nanyang Technological University Singapore.

Theory and action can inspire our country from the studies not just of Indonesia but in Belgium, UK and presentations from 20 other speakers. I took many readings on display including on Cyber Security (check website www.rsis.edu.sg).

Radicalism is real, it is not imagined.

Data by one speaker showed 1,100 foreign fighters from the Western Balkans who traveled to territories held and administered by terrorist organizations.

Another speaker removed the blame on Islam the religion but on how “it plays out,” its structure, how it is presented to “young Muslims” for instance. Even then, we must acknowledge the tensions among the Muslims themselves prompted from ethnic realities.

Aliza Wahid of Gus Dur, Indonesia, daughter of former President Abdulwahid, identifies social cohesion as a determinant of success. Support systems must be in place. Mosques must be source of a solution, while acknowledging there is no mosque funding from the State.

Aminath Hassan of the Maldives Police showed programming within the police system so that those detained do not entertain the thought of radicalism.

The last presentations from New Zealand brought out some tears from the very formal, calm forum. We in the Philippines can learn from New Zealand that has a small Muslim minority. They too faced a shocking crime against their Christchurch mosque that killed dozens.

Lessons here show the following:

–              Silence of the wounded, at their NOT crying out;

–              Wider surprise at the calm response of the Muslim community

–              Private deeds of tradespeople, repairing with no payment and no publicity.

–              Banality of goodness

–              And the global stream of visitors in sympathy.

The pain from the Marawi siege that has displaced half a million in 2017 is hard to heal for its affected who are now dispersed, many outside Bangsamoro unaccounted for. There must be a collective mourning and resolving that can only come from participation of the natives who have lost their ancestral homes.

It is not ideology that kills, it is how it is acted upon. We must, as a country that cannot monitor all its islands and porous borders, learn to invest in police who understand religion; religious who understand security; and people who can be part a response system.

Such can merge mechanisms within the Office of Civil Defense, the DILG for the barangay peacekeeping (BPATs) , NDRRMC on disaster risk reducation , peace office the OPAPP,  the Muslim Commission and the Muslim Religious sectors.  

The European Union (EU) and other funders must learn to invest in the madrasa system which is supporting education as a far-sustainable investment.

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