CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 13 July) – Terror groups filled in the vacuum that emerged after foreign funding for madaris (Arabic schools) stopped in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, an academician said Thursday.
Dr. Acram Latiph, of the Economics Department of Mindanao State University-Marawi, said the absence of funding support enabled terror groups to infiltrate the madrasah schools in the country and introduce their own brand of Islam.
Charitable funds from the Middle East dried up after the United States waged its global war on terror, he said.
Latiph, speaking in a multi-sectoral peace conference here, said such groups attract recruits by telling them that they are assured a place in heaven if they join.
He said it is easy for Islamic State-inspired groups to thrive in a place like Lanao del Sur, which is considered the poorest province in the country.
The promise of heaven and the prevalence of poverty is a win-win formula for terror groups, he said. “Walang pag-asa kaya nadadala sa terorismo” (There’s no hope, that’s why people are won over by terrorism), Latiph added.
He said it is no longer a question of whether the Maute Group is officially linked to the Islamic State or not. He said it is enough that they are committing acts that the Islamic State is also doing.
No government support
A group report presented at the conference said madaris have no textbooks and facilities and their teachers are receiving less than P2,000 per month.
It said around 1.8 million students are enrolled in the madaris but these schools are neither registered nor supported by government.
Latiph noted too that Muslim religious leaders who speak against the Islamic State were threatened with reprisal.
“If an imam says something against the ISIS, a youngster with a gun would tell him to stop…. You’ll be terrorized if you speak against them,” he said.
He said the khutbah (sermon) being delivered by imams every Friday is supposed to unify the community and address local problems.
“This is no longer happening in our community. Politics is dividing us. Rehabilitation is colored by politics, that’s why it’s difficult to realize ‘Bangon Marawi’,” he lamented.
A Maranao doctor who attended the conference confirmed that the Maute Group recruited minors.
“I was doing circumcision on this 14-year-old boy. He told me, ‘Doc, after this I’m going to Butig [in Lanao del Sur] because I’m a recruit of the Maute’,” the doctor said.
He blamed the social conditions in Lanao del Sur as a major factor why “extremism” has become attractive to young people in the province.
“It’s a shame for us that Lanao del Sur is the poorest province. During our outreach programs we saw towns around Lanao del Sur, walang governance. Officials from the barangay to municipal levels are absent. Nasa Xavier Estates, Pueblo de Oro,” he said, referring to two high-end subdivisions in this city.
“As an ordinary Maranao, how do you fight these politicians? Sa CDO [Cagayan de Oro], kung magkamali ang officials pwede Bombo Radyo. Sa Lanao del Sur, wala, di mangyayari iyan. I can’t fight massive corruption in our place,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., chief of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said children as young as six to eight years old are being indoctrinated by the Maute Group.
He pointed out that there are no suicide bombers yet, but 10 years from now, it would be hard to predict the level of fanaticism among the youth.
The Army official said the military needs to enhance its counterterrorism strategy. “Like what’s happening now, we have no complete picture of what happened,” he said.
Madrigal added that after the conflict the military will implement firearms control and management, identify warring groups and address the possible occurrence of rido or clan war.
Some sectors believe that a series of rido might erupt after the Marawi siege, as residents who feel aggrieved by the Maute gunmen will possibly want to get back at those who supported the attackers.
‘A new city’
Latiph said the people of Marawi cannot be rightly compensated for the damage to the city. “Building a new city, that is your compensation.”
“I want my children to grow up not in a Marawi before May 23, but in a new city,” he said.
Latiph said the dream to build a beautiful Marawi has been a dream since the American era.
He said this was the reason why the Americans placed the original Kilometer Zero marker in Marawi “because Kilometer Zero signifies the capital of any land mass.” (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNews)