SCI experts explore violent extremism efforts with Philippine educators

October 17, 2016

SCI’s Frank Quiambao (left) and Erroll Southers met with educators from Philippine universities to discuss countering extremism. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan) More photos available on Flickr »

By Matthew Kredell

The Safe Communities Institute at the USC Price School of Public Policy hosted educators from the Philippines looking to explore initiatives and best practices for community leaders as a means of countering radicalization and violent extremism.

The Oct. 5 meeting was another in a series of SCI engagements with foreign delegations as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. It was the second group to come to SCI representing the Philippines.

SCI Director Frank Quiambao and Erroll Southers, the institute’s director of homegrown violent extremism studies, led the discussion.

“The Philippines has been dealing with this issue for well over 100 years,” said Quiambao, whose father was born in the Philippines. “A lot of their systems are based on the American system, so they’re dealing with it similarly to the way we deal with it here. What’s interesting about this group is they are all from universities, taking more of an academic and research approach.”

The radicalization process

SCI Director Frank Quiambao (right) listens to the Philippine delegation. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)

In his presentation, Southers noted how there are ideological similarities to the people radicalized by race-, religion- and issue-oriented extremist groups.

“There’s an altruism, a sense of nobility, present in most of the individuals who engage in the radicalization process,” Southers said. “These are young people who want to do something special, who want to be special. They believe they are contributing to their families and communities by joining these organizations.”

Southers continued: “What fuels radicalization sometimes is our own domestic and foreign policies. Recruiters come to them and say, ‘You think you’re American? You’re Somali. Even though you were born here, look at how they treat you. You go to the airport and they ask you to step out of line, you go into a store and people look at you.’ That starts to resonate with young people who already feel alienated.”

Empowering the community

Quiambao asserted that the bottom line is the government can only do so much, and empowering the people is the key to combating homegrown violent extremism. This is the holistic approach to addressing the safety of a community that SCI advocates.

“We have to look at this as something that is going to take years and generations,” Quiambao said. “It’s not something that is going to be solved in one news cycle or one person’s term of office. So often, in the United States, we don’t like things to take a long time. We want instant gratification. But we’re not going to defeat terrorism or any of these branches of extremism in a week or two. We have to be in it for the long haul.”

Five faculty members with a background in religious studies from five universities in the Philippines attended the meeting.

“Frank and Erroll have vast experience in government and law enforcement before joining academia, so this lecture really resonated with us,” said Mussolini Lidasan, who is executive director of the Al Qalam Institute of Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia at Ataneo de Davao University. “They helped us understand what role we have in academia in dealing with homegrown violent extremism, and how we can advocate for our government to understand its effects on policies, communities and people.”