Youth most vulnerable to lure of radicalization

MANILA-- A Muslim student on Friday underscored the vulnerability of young people to the radicalization process as they struggle with their sense of identity and belief systems.

During the PTV-4 forum on countering violent extremism, Datu Amir Wagas, an undergraduate student at Ateneo de Manila University, said the youth are most vulnerable to extremist influence and are often recruited by extremist groups into committing acts of violence.

Wagas warned that without proper guidance and exposure to dangerous influences and people, young people are prone to violent radicalization.

Wagas explained that the radicalization process starts off with regional instability in the form of social, political, or economic problems.

He said that this instability will then cause deficiency in the forms of desperation and social anger.

"The ones who really feel this psycho-emotional imbalance -- social anger and desperation -- are the young people. It is during the formative phases of the youth wherein they are still developing their sense of identity, their belief system," Wagas said.

"They are more sensitive to environmental changes, and they are yearning for a sense of belonging. They are still creating their own views about the world, and they're trying to figure out their place in the world," he added.

Wagas said extremists take advantage of the social anger and desperation felt by the community so that they can recruit young people to "support and power their hate-driven ideology and forward their political agenda".

Wagas pointed that the hate-driven ideology, or the Takfiri ideology, of these extremists is far from the teachings of mainstream Islam.

He stressed that mainstream Islam is the one followed by 90 percent of Muslims.

"It teaches respect for differences in opinion, respect for non-Muslims, treasures diversity, protects minorities, and has an intellectual tradition of wisdom and reason," he said.

Meanwhile, the extreme ideology -- being pushed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Qaeda, Maute, and other similar groups -- are violent reactions that do not tolerate difference in opinion, critical analysis and unfollowers.

These extremists, according to Wagas, deviate from the teachings of mainstream Islam and they resort to acts of criminality and brutality, therefore propagating misinterpretations of the religion.

"It is wrong to say that the Maute and similar groups represent the mainstream teachings of Muslims, because they do not," he said.

"(They) pursued a path of destruction and extremism which is against the principles of Islam and against the principles of the Bangsamoro struggle," he added.

He said the best way to counter violent extremism is to educate the youth on how to eradicate the root cause of radical and extremist ideologies. This could be done by promoting inclusive and democratic participation of the youth.

"Let's provide them with avenue and equip them with skills so that they can enter national discourse in creating policies that will affect the economy and ultimately affect them," Wagas said.

Wagas also underscored the need to fix the social anger and the frustrations experienced by individuals by giving them proper holistic formation with the end goal of serving the community.

Wagas also pushed for the promotion of institutions and teachings of mainstream Islamic scholars in order to prevent violent radicalization.

Wagas is the representative of Salaam Ateneo, a national movement of students within the Ateneo system, advocating the principles of mainstream Islam such as inclusive social service, inter-religious dialogue, the peace process and Preventing Violent Extremism.

He is also working as an intern at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, under the office of Commissioner Yusuf Morales.

Source: Philippines News Agency