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The Hermeneutics of Violent Extremism in Mindanao

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From the inception of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria among the rebel groups fighting against the Asad regime, to the spread of ISIS in Iraq and the rise of a certain Abu Bakr Baghdadi as the ISIS Leader, to the almost daily atrocities claimed by it in various countries, a specter of an unprecedented Islamist violent extremism has caught international attention. In the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao, violent extremism comes to the fore with ISIS-inspired militants’ occupation of the Muslim-dominated city of Marawi on May 23, 2017.

After almost five months of intensive aerial bombardment of the main battle area and ground assaults by the government troops, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, the leaders of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)-Basilan and ‘Maute Group,’ respectively, were killed in combat on October 16. Two days after, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the ‘liberation’ of Marawi during his seventh visit to the city during the course of the crisis. On October 23, 2017, that is, exactly five months after the siege, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the termination of all combat operations in Marawi City.

This book is a humble attempt to interrogate the methods and approaches of interpreting ‘violent extremism’ and related terms – as both signifiers and signified – in the context of Mindanao. As the social world is constituted like a text such that interpreting it reflects “the textual interplay at work,” or the concepts and structures of language, this book also hints at how such interpretation/s by the government’s civilian and military authorities, media practitioners, and the militants themselves impact upon the psychological and physical victimization of the innocents.

Now, even exactly three long years after the Marawi Siege, both ‘violent extremism’ and the government’s war against it continue unabated to victimize the city’s internally displaced residents, as well as others in various parts of Mindanao.

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