By Erik Espina
The danger of terrorism has been openly admitted by President Rodrigo Duterte in several speeches to warn the public in various occasions. The state response has been the unleashing of the “dogs of war” on the Abu Sayyaf, notorious for its gruesome beheadings. The last I viewed via Internet, was the heartless fate of a German national, in his last throes of life gargling, as his throat was slit.
The nation has witnessed the expanding attempts of the group to sow havoc in Bohol, timed with the ASEAN conference, to plant bombs and kidnap foreign targets. Cebu-based Catholic Archbishop Jose Palma hosted a “Social Dialogue for Peace” with other archbishops attending, regional PNP, Central Command (Centcom) government agencies, and yours truly as member of the Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board of the Centcom with Secretary Michael Dino invited as the presidential assistant for Visayas.
The hightened threat, however, is not confined to local armed terrorist groups courting ISIS, by claiming to be Islamic. The Abu Sayyaf is kidnap for ransom gang which has earned hundreds of millions of pesos to buy their guns, ammunition, and boats as they play cat and mouse games with authorities, during negotiations. The Maute group survives on the drug trade. The Raha Sulayman are former communists employing red tactics for extremist recruitment.
Most subtle, but worrisome, is the unseen hand of religio-ideological teaching of Wahhabbism (founded by 18th century Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhabi) aimed at enlisting more acolytes into this extremist strand of the faith, including, radicalizing the moderate majority of Sunni Muslims in the Philippines. The erosion is ongoing, Filipino Muslims are getting influenced by the puritanical teaching of this brand of Islam without their knowing it. In brief, the doctrine calls for “Al-tasfiyah wa al-tarfiyah,” meaning purification and education” and views other faiths and beliefs as “infidels.” It advocates a return to the original ways of the “Salafal-Salih” (pious ancestors), to “Tahwhid,” oneness/unity of God and transcendence of God.
The propellant to the burgeoning problem is in the unmonitored “Balik-Islam” of OFWs and religious scholars returning from the Middle East to the Philippines and foreigners cloaked as tourists proselytizing in identified breeding grounds, e.g., universities, prisons, Maddrassah Islamic schools spewing Takfiri terrorism which see other faiths as “enemies,” declaring some Sunni practices as “Takfir” (unbelief), aimed at establishing a country, and state of their own. This is the real threat in our midst, “Isis thinking.”