Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rush Hour Terror

This afternoon I was informed by Jinky that there was a bombing in Manila.

Upon searching and finding nothing on CNN or BBC News I emailed CNN and told them what I knew about the bombing. I felt myself tearing up as I was learning more about this bomb and it made me realize how very connected to the Philippines I feel. 
At first I felt that drop in the heart much like I feel whenever I see images of the Two Towers billowing smoke in New York. Immediately after I began to feel anger. 

     I didn't feel this type of anger after 9/11 because there was enough anger all over the TV screens from pundits, from everybody.  Actually I felt curiosity then. That was what led to me reaching out to the Muslim community in Cedar Rapids to ask questions directly about Islam since there was not much reliable information on the airwaves. I learned a lot from this year long cultural immersion within the Muslim Community at Cedar Rapids. I became really fond of Islam and it's followers. However the most difficult part for me to understand was modern day Islam's pacifist approach to Fundamental Islamic ideology and terrorism.

      Islam was able to answer many questions that the Bible was not able to answer. It had rules to follow and it had reasons to follow them. It had order and structure. However when it came to 'brothers' and 'sisters' committing acts of terrorism against civilians in various countries throughout the world. There was barely a peep. In fact, more often than not I'd hear a 'tit -for-tat' acceptance or justification of what was happening. I'm pretty sure if the coin were flipped and an extremist Christian group was doing acts of terrorism against civilians that a majority of Christians would say, NOT IN THE NAME OF MY RELIGION! Of course not all would say that as fundamentalists usually have some amount of followers depending on how grassroots it is or not.
     If this country hadn't of done this or wasn't doing this then these people wouldn't do this. Now, sometimes it seemed to make sense. There were some heavy handed tactics being used against some countries and Islamic communities however they would come back with such ferocity and disregard for INNOCENT civilian lives..in fact sometimes specifically targeting civilians. Those 'tit-for-tat' arguments just couldn't really cut it for justifying the carnage brought onto everyday people that could by your mother, brother, or daughter.

     A question began to form in my mind. Why are good, faithful Muslims allowing their religion to be hijacked by religious zealots bent on implementing THEIR OWN ideals on how the world and Islam should be followed? It just didn't make since that even the scholars and elders that have the power to make legal fatwas (religious edicts) against such brazen acts of terror didn't do just that. Instead they would remain quiet.

Back to the bombing that happened today.

       The attack was more than likely conducted by either Abu Sayyaf, MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is a break off militant wing of Muslims based in the Sulu Islands off of the Southern Coast of Mindanao), or the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah. Of course we can't know until evidence comes out or one of the groups claims responsibility. Some (myself included) believe that these groups are attacking in order to keep the fight going and remind Manila that they are not to be forgotten in their fight for complete succession from the Philippines. Yes, Abu Sayyaf and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) want to have their own country, their own Umma..or purely Islamic Community. Another example of an Umma is Afghanistan. Doesn't that sound encouraging?

Knowing this information and also listening to a justification for today's senseless attack on civilians made my blood boil. I was seeing red and my only thought was..Go Get them and Finish this.  A bit rough handed no?  I'll blame this sudden jump to conclusion and action on my 2 days without being able to sleep.  I quickly realized I needed to just breath and step back so I could think about the situation with a clear mind.

       I know some people who live and work with the indigenous communities of Mindanao and have intimate knowledge of the happenings that go on behind closed doors. They mentioned something that you don't hear much, or at all, in the news when I was fuming about the attacks.  You hear about terrorists(MILF, Abu Sayyaf) and Secessionists(MNLF) and that's it. A part of that reason is because of course the Philippines is the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist, especially on hot topic or controversial issues. That is a topic for another blog though.
       The interesting bits of information and 'tit-for-tat' justification that I received from them was that many indigenous people are being assaulted, raped(still waiting for the sources on this one), and their homes threatened by joint military actions between the US and Philippines Armed Forces. This happens despite there being a cease-fire (page 10,11) and peace agreement between MNLF and the Philippines Government that was signed in 1996.
       Not only that, but the US is drilling oil off of Sulu and mining minerals. So the indigenous people and leaders of the Autonomous Region do have reasons to be upset. They have reasons to be MORE than upset actually. However I hope they can find a better way of addressing their grievances.

So my reason for this blog is:
  1. To look at both sides of an issue before jumping to conclusions (although I will NEVER agree with the specific targeting of civilians).
  2. To question the all to common 'tit-for-tat' justification of any act of violence when it specifically targets civilians.


  1. So, u found that the bombings were real? Where was it located? Was anyone hurt? Was it a car bomb, package type bomb? U have a really good start here, but there needs to be a bit more fact, unless it's meant to be an opinion piece.Reread,as there are a few unfinished sentances that leave the reader hanging. Good work, Josh! You could go really far in this line of work, if that's what u r wondering about!

  2. It is an opinion piece.
    At the beginning of the article I left a link to the original news release from one of the news organizations that covered it. CNN didn't cover it well at all.
    It was a single bomb that they believed was placed under a seat. It was in Makati, the financial district of Manila. So far 4 people were killed and I believe 12-18 were injured?

  3. wow! What a senseless act! Have a great day, Josh!!

  4. Things like this in Manila doesn't seem to end. Once this news die down in time and the people start to think the environment is getting safer, then goes another bus bombed again, so unpredictable as it seems. The place where it happened is not far from where I work. I work in Ortigas while the bombing took place in Buendia, Makati. Whoever did this thing definitely wants the public to be afraid..and they thought that killing people is the best way to show that they should be feared--it is indeed senseless in its entirety. Shame on whoever did the bombing! Not only does this put the Philippines in such a bad spotlight, but the now high-risk and unstable safety situation could make some Filipinos decide to flee the country for good. Honestly, this is what I hate about my country. This makes it look like whatever you do and wherever you go very risky...to the point that it has become a matter of choice between life and death. God I hope this ends.

  5. @Sonya, thanks for bringing the unfinished sentences/paragraphs and thoughts to my attention. I've rechecked and fixed what I noticed.

    @Joanne - The sad part about terrorism is that it is ALWAYS unpredictable and it's main goal is to send a message of fear and unneasiness to the populace and government.
    The best way to fight it is for better security measures and higher cooperation between people, police, and ultimately government as well as just going about your daily lives as you normally would.

    But another thing to keep in mind is to think about 'why' might there be this terrorism? As many friends in Mindanao mention, there is a lot of government intervention, bombing, drilling, and complete disregard for the people and the environment. Why, so people can have more money in their pockets that RARELY if ever gets back to the people and the country where it is REALLY needed.

    So perhaps a good way to help combat terrorism is to know about the reasons that some parties are feeling grievances and then write to your politicians and governors and make your voices heard. The best Philippines is the one run by the people that love it and want to see it prosper (IMHO).

  6. Simple answer to your question. Islamic radicals do these things and they do it everywhere you find them in every country in the world because they basically want to create a dominant Islamic society either in that country or in the world. All of the hand wringing over "what did we do?" or "what can we do to make it better?" usually, almost always, ignores the obvious reasons that are usually stated by the attackers.

    I have a few Muslim friends that are truly modernized and after 9/11 when I asked them why moderates don't speak out against the extremists, they told me that they are afraid. They are under threat of death for speaking out.

    Until people learn to take Muslim extremists at their word and stop trying to find excuses ("oh, they're poor." a bs reason that's been invalidated time and again by the many middle and upper class terrorists over the years) and instead address this issue seriously, there will never be a solution.

    There is a fanatical, lunatic cult that uses the Islamic faith to lure in alienated young men who typically can't find a woman with the promise of hot sex for eternity if they'll just strap on a bomb and give it up for Allah. That's the bottom line.

  7. Sadly, if it was so simple then I think the problem would have been fixed. This issue is anything but simple and includes a myriad of conflicting politics, religion, culture, history, you name it.

    I agree with you that these days there are leaders and followers emerging in the ranks of the islamic extremists however I still think it is by far spurned on by poverty, nationalism/pride, and ideology.

    They do use people that have next to nothing, they offer them protection (usually through coercion of death), money, and opportunities to feed their families. In places that war has caused a majority of poverty you will have many more young boys willing to fight because well, what else are they doing with their lives? Shall they wait for the western 'saviours' to get them out of the mess and turmoil? That's never been a dependable solution.

    You've got nationalism playing a part in countries such as afghanistan where you have very proud afghans that do not take kindly to foreigner forces on their soil messing with their affairs (whether the intentions are good or not)..(Americans, if somehow taken over by a foreign force would do the same no doubt!!).

    And of course you have ideology playing a huge role. There is less access to the world through the internet in some of the regions that the Islamic extremists are based and where there is access it is usually extremely limited in what they are able to see. Many are taught (brainwashed) with a certain way of living and thinking through the extremist slant of the religion...mix that in with ancient customs and traditions and well..you've got a lot of complications!!

    Unfortunately, this can not be labeled a cult as a cult is a SMALL group that follows a particular ideology that does not coincide with the popular or current ideology.

    It's not just men strapping bombs these days either. It's women as well. That goes back to ideology, poverty, and sometimes nationalism. But mainly poverty and lack of education. Perhaps a sense of revenge in certain areas of conflict.

    But in the end, I must agree with you on the first part. This groups leaders do not care how many lives it will cost as long as they get their world order. If they were to be left alone to do as they pleased (I'm talking about the extremist factions) then I believe they will do much as Hitler did. Start small and then keep going for more until they are too strong. In fact, they already have become quite strong with the help of religious ideology and the use of the term JIHAD in their propoganda to back them up and replenish the numbers.