We’re living in violent times. Times of unbridled terror. Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has placed the large southern island of Mindanao under martial law following the storming of a city there by Islamist forces on Tuesday. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has put troops on Britain’s streets after a jihadi ripped away the lives of 22 people with a powerful nail bomb at a concert in Manchester on Monday night.
Marawi in Lanao del Sur province is now a warzone as tens of thousands of residents flee for their lives while the Armed Forces of the Philippines call in air-strikes and battle to regain control of the city from Islamic State-linked fighters of the Maute Group. Manchester in the northwest of England is now a city in mourning as it attempts to come to terms with the butchery unleashed by a man who’ll be known to those who adulate his handiwork as a “holy martyr”.
It’s time to get past the shock and horror and understand exactly what’s confronting the world. This is militant Islam; it’s focused and it’s dedicated. It doesn’t play by what the rest of humanity would regard as conventional rules; it doesn’t embrace humanity. It’s engaged in a “holy war”. It’s fighting and gladly dying for Allah to purge the world of evil; to cleanse the Earth. That cause is what makes it powerful. It has God on its side. That is the profound belief of those who rally to that cause.
So while the civil liberties groups and their ilk come up with touching and convenient theories about how poverty is the cause of this upheaval of evil, while progressive academics claim maginalisation and lack of “inclusiveness” are the seeds from which this abomination bloomed, the truth is very different. The enemy is an ideology that transcends all socio-economic boundaries.
It takes no account of wealth and social standing; it pays no heed to race or skin colour or language or country of birth or whether born into the Islamic faith. Many of those who ploughed the planes into the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11 2001 killing 2,996 people were from economically advantaged homes; the architect of that atrocity was the son of a billionaire industrialist. The mastermind behind the April 2002 truck-bomb attack at a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, which left 19 people dead was a German-Polish convert to Islam. The only common thread in all of this is an ideology which, according to those who believe in it, has been urged and blessed by God.
This is a virulent rogue strain of the Muslim faith. And it’s just about everywhere now. It’s on every continent except Antarctica. Across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa it’s deeply rooted. Elsewhere it’s taken root and spreading like kudzu or chickweed. And maritime Southeast Asia – from Mindanao in the southern Philippines, a region that’s grappled with a Muslim insurgency for more than 400 years, to the four southernmost provinces of Thailand where Muslim separatists have pursued their cause for 70 years – is now among the most receptive places on Earth for it to flourish. The soil and the climate are ripe.
The brand leader of this strain is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). For the new breed of jihadists and would-be jihadists this is the gold standard. Anything less than the ISIS creed is seen by them as impure. Fellow Muslims who don’t subscribe to it are regarded as no better than Christians and Jews – descendants of apes and pigs. And those who won’t convert are killed or subjugated; the women sold in slave auctions; the men to suffer undignified and brutal death.
This was never part of any mindset held by the Moro (Muslim) people who fought against the Spanish and later the Americans and then successive governments in Manila to establish an independent or at least an autonomous homeland in the Philippines’ south. But that’s changing as the new cult of Islamist groups write their own manifestos in the blood of the innocent; as a new radical creed with its mantra of ‘death to infidels’ increasingly takes hold.
The concert in Manchester, attended largely by girls aged eight to 18, might seem a strange target to the rest of us; but to those who scoped it out, planned the bombing and executed it, the Manchester Arena was a prime and perfect target. For them, the young female lives they snatched away in a horrific hail of nails and lumps of hot metal needed to be ended. To them, Western and Westernised girls of all ages are defiled; prostitutes. Worse; they’re regarded as sub-human, which is why those who annihilate them have no conscience. To the Manchester killer it meant little more than treading on a beetle.
This concert, then, wasn’t some moment of opportunity; it was carefully chosen; well planned. On stage was American pop star, Ariana Grande; for ISIS the embodiment of blasphemy – young, evocative, sexy – a ‘pied piper’ who threatens the morals of Muslim girls; a seductress capable of enchanting Muslim boys and fracturing the patriarchy; its raison d’être. An evil role model who parades in revealing outfits, champions feminist causes and supports gay marriage – the personification of all that is demonic; all that is abusive and offensive to Allah.
It’s difficult to comprehend all that, but unless we do we remain at a huge disadvantage of understanding this enemy. And so governments need to stop listening to social theory proffered by those who contort the facts to provide arguments that neatly fit their political predilections. ISIS makes no bones about its hate of Western women who openly express their sexuality and question male authority. To them they are a scourge and the enemies of Allah and as such must perish; whoever they are, whatever their faith, whatever their age.
Duterte is right not to minimise this threat posed to his country by the armed rebellion in Lanao del Sur – “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere,” he said on Wednesday. He promised that there will be no half measures in dealing with the Islamists – whether in Mindanao, or the other island regions of the Visayas and Luzon. If he needs to extend martial law from the edge of the south to the tip of the north, he will. To protect his people he has no choice.
This is not a war for oil or other treasure; this is a fight to preserve a way of life that the vast majority of his people want. Duterte has promised the death cults it will be a “harsh” crackdown: “If I think that you should die, you will die … If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it”.
Already his critics are claiming he’s overreacting as they call for him to reconsider his decision. “The recent incidents in Marawi do not justify the shotgun declaration of martial law; it is not the appropriate solution to the current conflict situation,” says the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in a press release on Wednesday.
Of course, they have no clue what the “current conflict situation” is; they’re not privy to military intelligence – nor should they be. Yet, they charge Duterte with using a “sledgehammer” to quell the unrest; of a “knee-jerk reaction”. In fact, the knee-jerk reaction is from the politically progressive Liberal ideologues of the NUPL.
This press release was issued just hours after Duterte’s declaration of martial law which, given the inordinate amount of time it takes lawyers in the Philippines to deliberate on anything, is a clear enough indication that this was a top-of-the-head political statement – and, as such, an unhelpful one. Or could it in fact be that the lawyers are concerned about a loss of business if the writ of habeas corpus is lifted?
Their statement continued: “Placing the entire Mindanao under martial law will open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations and abuses … It gives blanket power and authority to conduct military crackdowns and operations that would result in the further diminution of the people’s constitutional rights”.
You can find this same rhetoric in every self-serving Liberal enclave on the planet. And it’s actually part of what’s got us to where we are today. And just for the record, the people of Mindanao have been oppressed by Islamic extremism in its present form for decades. The NUPL didn’t help them then and it’s not helping them now.
And, here we go again with that same tired myth: according to this bunch of ‘human-rights defenders’, “the ultimate solution to the peace conflict in Mindanao is to address the basic problems of the Moro people such as poverty and landlessness”.
While those are problems that must be dealt with, they can only be so once the extremism has been eradicated; once the mounting ideology has been removed. Putting the cart before the horse in this situation will only inflame it further. It won’t stop kidnappings, beheadings and bombings; it will perpetuate them. And again, just for the record, ISIS and its affiliated groups in the Philippines don’t have much time for lawyers either, or the rule of law.
The best thing the NUPL can do for the people of Mindanao is to stay right out of this. Make a deal with the armed forces – the NUPL won’t provide military assessments and critiques of its campaign and the army won’t tell the lawyers how to run their courts.
Mindanaoans can’t have any “right to self-determination” while the black flags fly above their villages; nor any more social or cultural rights than the Yazidi girls and young women – made sex slaves of ISIS fighters in northern Iraq in 2014 – while foreign fighters increase their presence in this dark corner of existence. All that and more is to come unless the Islamists are vanquished.
These then are the realities which Duterte and his generals are up against. This is why the decision – an extremely tough one – to impose martial law was taken. Mindanao is in a state of emergency right now; in Britain the threat level has been raised to “critical”; the top of the scale. In both places these decisions reflect each government’s will to protect their people. The enemy is a common one and one that would gladly kill and maim until Kingdom come.