New publication on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines

(27-03-2018) CRG researcher Jeroen Adam published a new article on the role of grievances in understanding the Moro Islamic Liberation Front


CRG researcher Jeroen Adam just published a new article entitled "Bringing Grievances Back In. Towards an Alternative Understanding of the Rise of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  in the Philippines". The article argues for an analysis of MILF and violent conflict in Muslim Mindanao more in general, that engages more explicitly with questions of ideology and religion. The relevance of this argument needs to be assessed against the dominance of greed-based explanations in explaining violence in Muslim Mindanao the past two decades. Put simply, these explanations almost uniquely focus on violent competition over resources and access to patronage as the explanatory variable accounting for violence in the region. Next, this literature points at the strong involvement of clan institutions in these violence conflicts. Importantly, it hereby provides crucial new insights against those classic accounts still portraying conflict in Muslim Mindanao as a mere struggle for independence or autonomy by a Muslim minority.


Yet, despite its many benefits, this literature remains stuck in a reductionist ontology and does not manage to account for the strong mobilizational quality of religion. It is hereby argued that the remarkable growth of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front the past decades can only be fully understood when taking this religious dimension into account.  More precisely, it is argued that the ideal of religion as equality and moral purity has had a particular appeal for young people in the region and has enabled the proliferation of the MILF as a legitimate ideological alternative in a highly authoritarian and hierarchical society.