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Muslim-run call center to go up in Maguindanao

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By Ali G. Macabalang

Buluan, Maguindanao – In another campaign against poverty-driven violent extremism among some unemployed local graduates of madaris (Arabic and Islamic schools), government officials here have embarked on a project to put up a Business Process Outsourcing Center that could have a vast client base in the Middle East.

“It’s like hitting two birds with one stone,” Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu told The Manila Bulletin yesterday, referring to his administration’s joint venture with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for the construction of a R200-million building that will house the BPO outfit, among other businesses.

He said the BPO center will be run in three shifts by at least 240 call agents to be selected among graduate-scholars of the Maguindanao Program on Education Assistance and Community Empowerment (MagPEACE) and madaris in the province.

MagPEACE, which now has more than 6,000 collegiate and post-graduate scholars among poor households, including the families of Moro rebels, has produced more than 1,200 professionals, while dozens of Arabic and Islamic schools in the province have been producing hundreds of graduates every year, local statistics showed.

In the hiring of the Muslim call agents, priority will be given to madaris graduates because they find more difficulty in landing good-paying jobs because of the country’s lack of employment opportunities for people lettered only in the Arabic language, Mangudadatu said.

In early 2017, more than 1,300 madaris graduates and asatidz (mostly underemployed teachers) gathered here and formed a federation to fortify their clamor for government attention on matters of employment.

At the gathering, Ustaz (Islamic scholar) Ishak Katambak disclosed that several asatidz were subsisting on wages as low as R800 per month, while others have been volunteering without pay “in the name of religious conviction.”

In two meetings here of the provincial peace and order council (PPOC), Katambak said the awkward trend had made the madaris graduates and asatidz “vulnerable” to recruitment by ideologues of violent extremism offering more fund and “heavenly salvation.”

Police, military, and civilian authorities were appalled by Katambak’s revelation, even as Mangudadatu promised the madaris people: “We will see to it that in all life-enhancing projects embarked on, you shall be part of beneficiaries.”

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