• The Institute for Autonomy and Governance releases a new report entitled “Youth Vulnerability to Violent Extremism”
  • The report suggests that the recruitment arguments of violent extremist groups like the Maute may be resonating more than ever with Muslim youth
  • The report recommends building capacity around a moderate interpretation of Islam to counter extremist ideology and stronger government action on poverty alleviation and granting Muslim youth access to education


The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) has released a new report that sheds light on the renewed recruitment drive by terrorist groups in Muslim Mindanao. On December 11, the Philippine military said it had discovered a weeks-old training camp and bomb-making facility in Lanao del Sur, where the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group has restarted recruiting youth members.


The December 2022 IAG study, entitled “Youth Vulnerability to Violent Extremism,” found that the majority of the 800 youth respondents (50.4%) agree or strongly agree that “jihad qital (armed struggle) is an obligation of every Muslim.” This interpretation is the one propagated by violent extremist groups such as the Maute and is not in line with the moderate interpretation of traditional Islam.


More than six out of ten respondents (67.8%) also agree or strongly agree with the statement: “I believe that discrimination against Moros is enough justification to bear arms and fight.” Also backed by violent extremist groups, this interpretation equates anti-Muslim discriminatory practices (such as denying employment to a Muslim because of his religion) with the life-and-death actions of aggressors bent on destroying Islam, in effect adding a new justification for waging jihad qital.


Recommended Action


“Our study suggests that the recruitment arguments of the Maute Group and other terrorist organizations in Muslim Mindanao may be resonating more than ever with Muslim youth,” warns Atty. Benedicto R. Bacani, who is Executive Director of the IAG. He notes that one of the report’s recommendations is to enlist government agencies in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to build capacity around the Islamic concept of wasatiyyah (moderation) as a counterpoint to the ideology of violent extremism.


The IAG report also found that only 9.6% of respondents are aware of programs and projects under the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP P/CVE), which was finalized in 2019.  When told what P/CVE programs are planned, the 800 respondents were most interested in scholarships and training opportunities for Moro youth. About 73.9% chose this option when presented with a list of suggestions on how to prevent young people from joining VE groups.


The respondents also endorsed suggestions to extend the national government’s 4Ps conditional cash grants program to their communities (64.5%) and to provide entrepreneurship tutoring to the youth and giving them access to capital (54.8%). All these are consistent with the respondents’ belief that the two main push factors toward violent extremist are poverty and lack of access to education.


The 2022 report surveyed 400 urban youth and 400 rural youth from conflict-affected areas, interviewed 32 key informants from local government units, schools, civil society organizations, the security sector, international non-government organizations, and other relevant institutions, conducted 24 focus group discussions with 192 participants, comprising in-school/out-of-school, male/female youth participants from urban and rural areas, and developed five case studies around former members of violent extremist groups.


The field work was completed in March 2022. The research was made possible with the support of the Australian Government.


Download the report here.


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