The Institute of Islamic Studies, organized a Round Table Discussion on “Countering Violent Extremism” at Balay Kalinaw, UP-Diliman on October 4, 2017. The RTD was in partnership by Department of Cultural Affairs, US Embassy – Manila and participated by various sectors representing government and non-government organizations, community leaders, interfaith community, and students from the University.
The discussion on ‘how to work together as a community to address the issues on religious violent extremism’ is the main theme of the RTD. Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi the lecturer of the event said, “this are issues that law enforcement and Government cannot handle them alone, it has to be collaborated efforts”. He adds, “we see youth in our communities are recruit by terrorist group to go and fight, we see the element of radicalization in our community… it is a role of us to play”.
Dr. Elsanousi serve as the Director of the Secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, an organization that connects grassroots peacemakers with global leaders to strengthen their work for sustainable peace. And recently he served as Director of Community Outreach and Interfaith Relations for 12 years for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) where he focused on mobilizing American Muslim leaders to take more creative roles in their communities. While at ISNA, he worked with the U.S. government efforts to prevent radicalization and violent extremism. Hence, during the event, he shared one of their program and initiatives in United States in response of the community to the issues of religious and violent extremism, known as “The Safe Space Initiatives”.
The Safe Space Initiatives accordingly create space for communication (of the community to the larger); to speak, to talk about issues confronting them. It has three elements; The Prevention – aims to form an action oriented civic and political program like interfaith dialogue and media literacy; Intervention – to interfere when there is a presence of radicalization, religious and violent extremism; and Ejection – as a last recourse.
On the side of the reactors of the RTD namely Atty. Mehol K. Sadain, he responded to Dr. Elsanousi point on engaging community into interfaith dialogue. He said, “we have already interfaith dialogue”. He brought out the necessity of intrafaith dialogue among Muslims before going beyond into interfaith dialogue. On one hand, Prof. Carmen A. Abubakar response to the lecture, that Muslims in the Philippines is structured to a one member family and that the safe place must begin first within the family; and that, “this things prevention, intervention and ejection was unfamiliar to Muslims”. She said, we cannot eject the member of the family because he acts violently”. She reason out that those member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are not following the group because of a theology or ideology but because they were member of the family, or related relative of the head of the group. Thus it is not easy to eject them because they were belong to the clan.
On the open forum, Prof. Julkipli Wadi voice out that the safe space initiatives may work on a stable democratic country but not in a country wherein there is the lack of democracy and presence of authoritative government. To the issues of radicalization, he point out that misunderstanding is entrench to human nature, that there is no problem of being radical as long as the method of expressing is not through violence. The only problem now is that those radicalize people were able to access firearms from what Prof. Wadi called as “Big Powers”. Thus, he asserts that the only way to stop violent extremism is to regulate or reduce the exportation of firearms and hegemony in other Muslim countries.
In the end, Dr. Elsanousi greatly emphasize the significant of interfaith dialogue, bridging trust and relationship and religious freedom among Muslim community. He end with a statement that “attack of one religion is attack on all”.