Over the past month, Extremely Together young leaders Arizza Nocum of the Philippines, Hajer Sharief of Libya and Fatima Zaman of the United Kingdom have exchanged e-mails on holidays, work, and what lies ahead for Countering Violent Extremism in 2017. Now they open up their inboxes to share what they’ve learned.
From: Hajer Sharief
Sent: 21 December 2016
To: Fatima Zaman, Arizza Nocum
Subject: Recent events in Ankara & Berlin
Hey Fatima and Arizza,
I’m sorry I missed the chance to see you in London last week as I was really sick, how did the meeting and the filming go? I’m quite sure you, Mimoiun and Ilwad had interesting conversations on the role of youth in preventing and countering violent extremism. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it the next time we meet.
I feel really sad about what happened this week in Berlin and Ankara, we used to think that extreme violence takes place during wars and armed conflicts, therefore it’s something that won’t happen in stable countries. However, the recent events proved us wrong, didn’t they? It feels that even in the most secure countries where they invest a tremendous amount of money and efforts in defense, yet they are failing to maintain social peace.
I want to hear your thoughts on this – where do you think the world went wrong in preventing and countering violent extremism?
Take care & be safe,
From: Arizza Nocum
Sent: 01 January 2017
To: Hajer Sharief, Fatima Zaman
Subject: Re: Recent events in Ankara & Berlin
Dear Hajer and Fatima,
Happy New Year to both of you lovely ladies! I wish you all the best for 2017!
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been sick, Hajer, and I hope you’re feeling better now. The filming had been a blast! I got to hang out with Ilwad, Mimoun, Fatima, and Jonathan for a while as we were doing the interviews and shots. On the side, I had also been able to see a bit of London.
I have actually just returned from a vacation to my hometown, Zamboanga City (a city in the Southern peninsula of the Philippines). Zamboanga is known to be a hotspot for Islamist militant activity in the Philippines. Recently, there have been reports of organized terror attacks and kidnappings, but nothing can scare my family away from our beloved town. I spent a lot of time with my family on both sides: I spent the joyous Christmas celebrations with my Catholic dad’s side of the family then spent some downtime preparing for the New Year with my Muslim mom’s side of the family. I also checked up on the projects of KRIS Library in the area.
My time in Zamboanga had actually given me insight to answer your question. Here in the mixed Christian/Muslim population of the region, I can still see the clear boundaries between the two religions and can sadly sense some tension and stereotyping even among my own relatives. Although there are established terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf operating in the region, undoubtedly this quiet social conflict among us inflames the issue.
That being said, recent events in these relatively stable countries show us that there is brewing internal turmoil in many different countries. Defense alone – especially defense against external enemies – is not enough to maintain social peace. We must look within.
I’m sure Fatima will be able to say a lot on internal conflict within communities which I know is a large part of her work in the UK.
From: Fatima Zaman
Sent: 05 January 2017
To: Arizza Nocum, Hajer Sharief
Subject: Re: Recent events in Ankara & Berlin
Dear Hajer and Arriza,
Happy New Year to you both.
Hajer I trust you are feeling better now? Arizza I hope you enjoyed your trip, your home town sounds like a lovely place despite the tensions that exist between communities.
I too share your concerns about the growing number attacks across the world. Turkey, Baghdad and Mogadishu – all in the space of a few days. Not the start to 2017 I wanted or expected.
I completely agree with you Arizza, we do need to look within. Particularly at the local level, at communities and the lack of cohesion among them. 2016 was the year in which identity politics made a meteoric come back. It’s this surge that’s driving sporadic lone wolf attacks across the globe. It really does seem like no where is safe.
As I sit in London, one would assume that I’m safe. The UK isn’t plagued by civil war or famine, but that’s not to say that I’m not worried. Everyday I feel more and more unsafe. I know that sounds weird because I work in counter terrorism, but it’s precisely this that keeps me awake at night. Since the attacks in Berlin and Zurich I have this awful feeling that London is next and I need to do more to protect my community.
Stability does not always ensure security. Just yesterday the Police disrupted a man trying to board a plane in alleged preparation for acts of terror. There is a quiet discontent brewing in British communities that we need to address if we are to prevent extremism, violence and conflict from spreading and hopping borders.
Anyway to answer your question Hajer – the CVE world is doing A LOT, but we need to join up these efforts – from the UK to Libya and right across to the Philippines – if we want to prevent terrorism.
Stay safe and vigilant.