Is ‘Terror’ Marawi’s Single Story?

IS ‘TERROR’ MARAWI’S SINGLE STORY?
By Mansoor L. Limba – July 3, 2017

(The following is a modified transcript of the 20-minute presentation of a working paper “The Marawi Crisis: A Derridean Reading” at the Forum “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives,” organized by the Social Sciences and Education Cluster at Ateneo de Davao University, June 30, 2017.)

My esteemed co-panelists – Sir Dennis [Coronel, MA] and Ma’am Diana [Taganas, CPA, MA] – Ma’am Carmen [Sabino, RP, RPm] and her team of young and energetic organizers, my fellow students, and other members of the academe who are present in this forum: Good afternoon and “salamun ‘alaykum” (may peace be upon you)!

At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers for giving me this rare opportunity to share my thoughts and views on the current crisis in Marawi.

Let me begin by narrating my favorite introductory anecdote in this regard. In a peace-building symposium-workshop last year, there was a casual conversation between (1) a Muslim NGO worker and (2) a Mindanao-based non-Muslim journalist.

This conversation suddenly turned into a heated argumentation over the ‘correct’ description for such groups as the Abu Sayyaf and others. The Muslim NGO worker argued that they are ‘un-Islamic’ because “what they are doing are against the teachings of Islam!” The non-Muslim journalist countered by saying that they are ‘Islamic’ because “They use Islamic symbols, metaphors and justifications in their acts of violence!”

That heated argumentation, actually, calls to mind postmodernism’s recurring themes, one of which is Jacques Derrida’s ‘grammatology’ or semiotic analysis given in his writings. According to this prominent postmodernist, textual is the way in which the social world is constructed, and interpreting the world reflects “the textual interplay at work,” or the concepts and structures of language.

According to Derrida, there are two ways of exposing textual interplays, viz. (1) deconstruction and (2) double reading (Derrida, “Of Grammatology,” 1976). By ‘deconstruction, he refers to a means of showing how all theories and discourses rely on artificial stabilities produced by the use of seemingly objective and natural oppositions in language – for example, light/darkness, knowledge/ignorance, white/black, friend/enemy.

In a bid to demonstrate how these stabilizations operate, Derrida subjects the text to double reading: (1) a repetition of the dominant reading to show how it achieves its outward coherence and (2) the demonstration of the internal tensions within a text that result from the use of ostensibly natural stabilizations. In doing so, Derrida’s aim is not to come to a ‘correct’ or even ‘one’ reading of a text, but to show how there is always more than one reading of any text.

Statement of the Problem

Taking postmodernist Derrida’s ‘grammatology’ or semiotic analysis as the theoretical framework, this brief presentation, which hopefully will become a working paper, shall explore the textual interplay at work in this forum’s framing of words (i.e. ‘extremism,’ ‘religious extremism,’ and ‘terror’) about the Marawi Crisis. Using Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ tools, in this brief presentation I shall scrutinize these three terms, viz. (1) extremism, (2) religious extremism, and (3) terror in Marawi.

Case 1: ‘Extremism’

It is mentioned in the invitation letter that there shall be a forum on “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives.” It is also stated thus, “…the SSE Cluster is inviting you to be one of its key speakers to discuss religious extremism” (emphasis added). One implication that can be inferred here is that the ‘terror’ in Marawi is a product of ‘religious extremism’.

In Countering/Preventing Violent Extremism (CVE/PVE) trainings and workshops, the first session is usually allotted to conceptual clarification, and the first question being posed always is something like this: Is to be ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ necessarily bad and, therefore, condemnable?

Basically, we define ‘radical’ to be the one that advocates fundamental and/or drastic change. When we say ‘extremist’ we usually refer to someone that holds a view or displays a behavior or action different from the ‘usual’. Consciously or unconsciously, whenever we say ‘extremist’ we are imagining in our mind a spectrum having two ends which are the ‘extreme’ parts while its middle is what we imagine to be the norm or ‘normal’ as adopted by the majority.

George Washington was definitely a radical during the American War of Independence, because instead of maintaining America under the British Empire, he was opting for American independence! Andres Bonifacio was a certified extremist, because instead of just reform under Spanish sovereignty, he was fighting for separation from Spain! Nelson Mandela was a convicted terrorist for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and because of this heinous crime, he was imprisoned for almost three decades!

By the way, how about the young Jewish man who had the audacity to turn upside down the money changers’ table in the Temple of Solomon? (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47; John 2:13-16) He would also address his fellow Jews as “You serpents, generation of vipers!” and “a wicked and adulterous generation!” (Matthew 23:33; 16:4) He must be an extremist during his time!

As you see, knowing the context of such terms as ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’ is very important.

Case 2: ‘Religious Extremism’

Let us equally pose this fundamental question: Is ‘religious extremism’ necessarily bad, and thus, blameworthy?

How about the case of one who voluntarily makes the ‘vow of celibacy and poverty’ to become a nun or priest? Accordingly, he or she makes this decision as a religious ‘calling’. How about the case of a teetotaler who totally abstains from alcohol, on account of religious conviction? How about the case of a non-smoker in a country or city of smokers, who refrains from smoking due to a religious reason?

Is their ‘religious extremism’ necessarily bad?

It’s not, of course, because there is a missing element here, namely, violent imposition or compulsion. If a would-be nun voluntarily makes a vow of celibacy and poverty, it’s just okay. It will not be okay if she begins to impose celibacy upon all women by force. If a person does not drink alcohol, it’s just okay. He will become questionable when he starts forcing the hook, line and sinker of his teetotalism down the throat of the people around him. If the would-be nun and the teetotaler do so, they may be accused of violent extremism in the name of, or under the guise of, religion.

Case 3: ‘Terror’ in Marawi

Let us now consider the third and last case – ‘terror’ in Marawi.

The title of this forum is “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives.” As I read this title for the first time, my take – correctly or not – was that it is like saying, “Let’s talk about toothpaste from different perspectives, but let’s just talk about Colgate!” That is to say, “Let’s come to talk about Marawi Crisis from diverse views and opinions, but let’s just talk about its ‘terror’ dimension!”

The fact is that the Marawi Crisis is a multi-dimensional issue, and ‘terror’ is just one of the many dimensions of the Crisis.

Aside from its ‘terror’ dimension, how about (1) the historical context, in particular the Philippine government’s failure to fully implement the peace agreements it has signed for decades? How about (2) the Philippine military intelligence’s success or failure? (As can be recalled, during the first day of the Marawi siege, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told us that there was no failure of military intelligence because there were already such reports of the siege, but what was lacking was ‘appreciation’ of those reports. Perhaps the Secretary fails to realize that the public knows that intelligence report without proper appreciation of it is no ‘intelligence’ at all. It’s just a wanton stockpiling of tons and tons of raw materials and information data!)

How about (3) the role of LGU’s peace and order councils in preventing the siege, in particular that of the BPATs (Barangay Peace Action Teams) in all barangays of the occupied business district of the city? How about (4) the issue of alleged unholy marriage between local narco-politics and terrorism?

How about (5) the actual terror of the ‘war on terror’? (I am referring to the reports of military’s mishandling in checkpoints and lootings of properties in areas of the city they control.) How about (6) the issue of Philippine military modernization (specifically the challenge of modern urban warfare, and more serious than that, the challenge of asymmetrical warfare in the information age)? How about (7) the question of excessive use of force in the form of aerial bombardments against enemy targets? (What prevents the onset of snipers versus snipers scenario, by the way?)

How about (8) the problems related to the evacuees and internally displaced people (IDPs)? How about (9) the issue of rehabilitation, resettlement and internal migration?

And how about (10) the melodramatic accounts of survivors, sometimes risking their own lives for the sake of others with a different religious affiliation?

Undeniably, these are all Marawi stories, as well.

Summary

By scrutinizing the three terms (extremism, religious extremism, and ‘terror’ in Marawi), we can say that textual is indeed the way the social world is constructed. It is the same reason why we call part of the South China Sea as “West Philippine Sea” and the Benham Rise as the “Philippine Rise.”

As a ‘middle ground’, instead of ‘religious extremism’ an alternative term is ‘violent extremism (in the name of, or under the guise of, religion). And an alternative title that can be considered for this forum is: “The Marawi Crisis: Looking through Different Perspectives.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, the universe is not a monopoly of binary equations. The world – the Marawi Crisis included – is not always a case of “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Zero-sum is not always the game in town. In the Derridean jargon, there is always a multiple reading of a text.

To take ‘terror’ as Marawi’s single story is no doubt a dangerous game to play.

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The Gulf between the Science and Practice of Politics

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /3 June) – At the opening ceremony of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference held last month in Cebu City, the keynote speech – “The Problem of a National(ist) Method” – was delivered by Prof. Dr. Patricio N. Abinales of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

During the Open Forum, I asked the keynote speaker, thus:

“The Asian Institute of Management is located in the Philippines, training hundreds of managers here and abroad for many decades. Now, the PPSA is celebrating more than 50 decades of its existence. On the other hand, we all know the state of political management and governance in the country. My question is: what practical steps will you advise the PPSA to continue closing the gap, or relatively closing the gap, between the science and practice of politics in the Philippines?”

Eager as I was to listen to his answer, I was surprised to receive his extremely economical response which was something like this: “I will give you the answer in a karaoke tonight!”

Amused by his thrifty remark, I just remained silent afterward.

In Panel 2B “Reframing Justice” of the conference, a young lady professor from Keio University, Japan, presented a paper entitled, “The Multiplicity of Violence and Divided Political Perceptions by the Extrajudicial Killings: Why President Duterte Could be Popular in Muslim Mindanao.”

At the outset of her presentation, my impression was that she has undergone field research in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In her presentation proper, however, she made the following points: (1) In the ARMM area, to have a rifle in every household is just normal; (2) The Muslim community is described as one which is composed of ‘Muhajirun’ and ‘Ansar’, and ‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists while ‘Ansar’ are those who help the jihadists; and (3) President Duterte’s federalism agenda is an example of political violence.

In the Open Forum, the lady moderator announced that she will only entertain two questions due to time constraint. Although I was raising my hand from the very beginning, a professor from Manila was recognized. After him, the lady moderator said that for the sake of gender equality, she will entertain a lady from the audience. But afterward, without any explanation, the moderator surprisingly broke her own rule and entertained another lady from the audience. I was about to say, “For the sake of gender equality, to entertain yet another male questioner – 2 males and 2 females – is just fair,” but I decided not to pursue.

If only given the chance to ask, I would have raised the following points:

Rifle in every household

“A cousin of my wife lives in Mamasapano (Maguindanao) and I know for a fact that there is not a single rifle in her house, nor in any of the five houses surrounding hers! Is your claim based on a reliable study? Have you really gone to every house in the whole ARMM area?

“If your claim is really true, then Babu Monera (an old lady resident of Mamasapano who momentarily became popular due to her interview by GMA News TV) could have used her rifle against the SAF heroes who enjoyed looting her small sari-sari store!

“Have you contemplated on the logical consequence of your claim in terms of loose firearms? Can you imagine the huge quantity of such hypothetical loose firearms and how the Philippine government could deal with it?”

‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists

“Madame Professor! Please show to us any Arabic-to-English dictionary which defines ‘Muhajirun’ as ‘jihadists’ or ‘those who perform jihad’.

“’Muhajirun’ means ‘emigrants’ and please do not confuse it with the word ‘mujahidun’ (those who perform jihad)!”

The fact is that the Muslim citizens of the Islamic State in Madinah were composed of the ‘Muhajirun’ – the emigrants from Makkah who were driven away from their homeland – and the ‘Ansar’ – literally, the ‘Helpers’ which refers to the Muslims of Madinah who helped and gave shelter to the oppressed ‘Muhajirun’.

Federalism equals political violence

“As I see it, federalism can be considered a form of political violence if and only if it is arbitrarily imposed on the entire nation without any referendum or similar process or processes. But it is not so, in the case of the present government’s federalism agenda.”

Besides, my take is that to view federalism as a form of political violence has the unintended tendency to overstretch the meaning of the word ‘violence’, and chances are, if everything is a form of violence, then the word ‘violence’ itself would be reduced to meaninglessness – a situation which may be regarded by some people as linguistically ‘violent’.

So is the concept of security in International Relations. When everything is securitized, this state of affairs renders empty elegance and unmeaning futility to the word ‘security’ itself.

In the closing session in which the names of the ten newly elected PPSA board of directors were announced after a secret balloting, I was imagining the crucial role of the association – the largest group of political scientists in the country – in trying to close the gap between the science and practice of politics.

The fact that blatantly inaccurate information such as ‘muhajirun equals mujahidun’ is disseminated in its annual international conference shows that closing this gap is indeed a herculean task on the part of PPSA.

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5 Newly Published Translation Works

5 NEWLY PUBLISHED TRANSLATION WORKS

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “FAMILY IN ISLAM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 63 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-168-2)

Sayyidah Tahirah Aghamiri, “FULFILLMENT OF TRUST,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 149 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-170-5)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “ISLAMIC ANTHROPOLOGY,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 119 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-116-3)

Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 419 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-124-8)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “THE ISLAMIC MORAL SYSTEM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 49 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-166-8)

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Writing for Righting Historical Wrong

WRITING FOR RIGHTING HISTORICAL WRONG

“But, where is the book?!” “Is it not time to finally publish it?” “Can I still tell… that this is coming out?” “Perhaps the editing can be fast-tracked?” “I am excited that March is quickly turning into April…!”

(I can see my co-editors/co-compilers smiling as they read these lines.)

These were typical lines we would receive from the main patron of the book, while rightfully demanding for the output.

Naturally, each of these lines was a horrible nightmare for our Team of Seven for the guilt of non-delivery.

Now, as the book was finally launched last night, these lines are sweet mementos worth reminiscing and relishing.

“Congratulations to all of you!” was the sweetest ‘iftar’ I ever savored last night, while always remembering the beloved Marawi besieged by both ‘terror’ and ‘the war on terror’ – and unfortunately paying the heavy price for both.

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A Media Narrative’s Textual Interplay on Marawi Incident

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MARGINALIA COLUMN > A MEDIA NARRATIVE’S TEXTUAL INTERPLAY ON MARAWI INCIDENT

Mansoor L. Limba on May 24, 2017

MAKATI CITY (Mindanews/24 May) – Early this month I presented a paper about the media discourse on violent extremism in Mindanao at the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) international conference in Cebu City.

Adopting postmodernist Jacques Derrida’s semiotic analysis he dubbed ‘grammatology’ as the conceptual framework, I applied his twin tools of ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ to examine the textual interplay at work with three relevant terms: (1) Maute Group, (2) ISIS vs. IS, and (3) Islamic vs. un-Islamic. (See related column, “Islamic, un-Islamic, or Islamist?” (http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-islamic-un-islamic-o…/))

As the Marawi encounter was unfolding yesterday afternoon, I can’t help but read through the same Derridean lens one of the earliest news reports on the incident by Cotabato City-based John Unson of The Philippine Star newspaper (“Troops, Maute group clash in Marawi City,” May 23, 2017, http://www.philstar.com/…/troops-maute-group-clash-marawi-c…).

Three lines of the report particularly caught my attention:

Line 1: “The Maute group… espouses hatred to non-Muslims.”

The fact is that the said group, along with others that have allegedly subscribed to the ISIS ideology, is not only an interfaith, but more seriously, an intra-faith issue among Muslims.

A cursory examination of the textual sources they have been using, including “Durarus-Saniyyah fi Ajwibati’n-Najdiyyah” (a compilation of discourses, letters, and religious verdicts issued by Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab), will reveal that ‘takfir’ – declaring other Muslims not subscribing to their interpretation to be ‘kafir’ (unbelievers) – is an integral part of their creed.

Statistics also show that Muslims have been the overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

Line 2: “Army intelligence sources said members of the Maute group had infiltrated a gathering of hundreds of Tablighs in the barangay…”

A regular gathering of the Tabligh-i Jama‘ah is called “Ijtima‘” which is the Arabic word for “assembly,” “gathering” or “convention”. As a nationwide event, this gathering usually attracts thousands or tens of thousands of attendees, as residents near the Markaz Mosque in Marawi City would confirm.

I hope Mr. Unson would have the opportunity to check the method of his ‘army intelligence sources’ in estimating the number of people in a gathering – to differentiate hundreds from thousands, tens of thousands from a million.

Line 3: “The Tablighs are missionaries engage[d] in da‘awah (preaching) activities that many moderate Islamic theologians do not agree with.”

This statement could give a wrong impression to an unsuspecting reader and make the following premises and conclusion: “The Tablighs are not ‘moderate’ and therefore they are ‘extremists’ and since they are ‘extremists’, they must be violent extremists!”

Founded in the Indian sub-continent more than a century ago and introduced in the Philippines in mid-1980s, Tabligh-i Jama‘ah is a non-political non-violent religious movement of tens of thousands of Muslims throughout the country.

If to be ‘political’ is a sign of ‘moderation,’ then the Tabligh members are ‘extremists’ for being non-political; otherwise, they are not.

Moreover, if ‘missionary’ is meant to refer to someone who is sent by an institution to propagate a faith as his mission, then members of the Tabligh-i Jama‘ah could not be called ‘missionaries’ because there is no such institution that is sending them to a mission; rather, each member is supposed to provide for his or her travel expenses.

In sum, as Derrida would remind us, textual is the way in which the social world is constructed, and the media people have a pivotal role in this ‘construction’ of – either a bridge or a wall.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Source: http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-a-media-narratives-t…/

Photo via philstar.com

@mansoor_limba

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Hijab and Mental Health

HijbaandMentalHealth

FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION

‘Abbas Rajabi, “HIJAB AND MENTAL HEALTH,” trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: ABWA Press, forthcoming), 178 pages.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Publisher’s Foreword

Preface

Introduction
Statement of the Problem and Necessity for Research
Operational Definitions

Chapter 1: History of Ḥijāb
A Brief History
1. Women’s Covering in Ancient Greece and Rome
2. Women’s Covering in Ancient Persia
2.1. Median Period
2.2. Persian (Achaemenian) Period
2.3. Parthian Period
2.4. Sassanid Period
3. The Women’s Dress Code in Major Religions
3.1. Ḥijāb in the Sharī‘ah of Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘a)
3.2. Ḥijāb in Judaism
3.3. Ḥijāb in Christianity
3.4. Ḥijāb in Islam
4. Ḥijāb and the Lawfulness of the Relationship between Man and Woman in the Qur‟an
5. Ḥijāb and the Lawfulness of Relationship between Man and
Woman in the Traditions
6. The Muslim Jurists’ View on Women‟s Covering
7. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women after the Advent of Islam
7.1. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Rule of the First Four Caliphs until the End of the Umayyad Caliphate (11-132 AH)
7.2. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Abbasid Caliphate (132-656 AH)
7.3. The Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Samanian Rule
(261-389 AH)
7.4. Ḥijāb of the Iranian Women during the Āli Būyeh Rule
(320-447 AH)
7.5. Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the ‘Alawī Rule of Ṭabaristān (250-316 AH)
7.6. Ḥijāb of Iranian Women during the Ghaznawī Rule
(351-582 AH)
7.7. Ḥijāb of Women during the Mongol Rule (616-736 AH)
7.8. Ḥijāb of Women during the Safavid Rule (907-1135 AH)
7.9. Ḥijāb of the Women during the Qājār Rule (1193-1344 AH)
8. The History of Combatting Ḥijāb in Iran
9. Ḥijāb in Our National Islamic Culture

Chapter 2: The Innateness of Ḥijāb and Woman‟s Adornment Instinct
The Innateness of Woman‟s Dress Code
The Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment
1. This Instinct as Exclusive to Woman
2. The Need for Setting the Legal Parameters of the Instinct of
Adornment
3. Excess in the Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment

Chapter 3: The Relationship between Ḥijāb and the Woman’s Mental Health
Ḥijāb and Mental Health
1. Safety
2. Psycho-social Development
3. Women‟s Acquisition of Value
4. Regulation of the Instinct of Ostentation and Adornment
5. Enhancement of the Sense of Self-worth
6. Protection of the Woman‟s Feelings
7. Adherence to the Human Moral Principles
8. Preservation of the Strong Family Bond
8.1. Effects of the Spread of Obscenity and Promiscuity in the
Shattering of the Family
8.2. Excess in the Consumption of Beautification Products
8.3. Sexual Frigidity

Chapter 4: Mental Health and Anxiety
Mental Health
Definition of ‘Mental Health’
Anxiety
1. Historical Background
2. Definition of ‘Anxiety’
3. Signs of Anxiety in the Different Dimensions
4. The Adolescent‟s Reaction to Anxiety
5. The Formation of Anxiety in the Process of Growing-up
6. Theoretical Points of View on Anxiety
6.1. Psychodynamic Theory
6.2. Etiological Theory
6.3. Humanistic and Existentialist Theory
6.4. Cognitive Theory
6.5. Behavioralist Theory
6.6. Socio-cultural Theory
7. Empirical Background of the Research

Chapter 5: Results of the Field Research
Introduction
Research Methodology
Statistical Population
Samples
1. Sampling Method
2. Sampling Size
Conclusion
Other Findings

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A Prison Called PVE

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Mansoor L. Limba on March 20, 2017

MAKATI CITY (20 March) – In August last year, I flew to Davao City – not primarily to witness and join the week-long celebration of Kadayawan Festival – but to attend two events related to history as an academic field of discipline.

Last week I flew there again – not primarily to join the Dabawenyos in their four-day Araw ng Dabaw (Davao City Founding Day) holidays – but to sit as a panel to a dissertation defense on halal practices in Region 11, to witness the launching of a book on human rights, and finally, to attend, as a representative of the academic sector, a three-day workshop on PVE.

PVE. Yes, it’s Preventing Violent Extremism.

While the topic was already more than enough to send shivers down one’s spine, the insignia “PVE. Reimagine. Redefine. Rethink.” of the UNDP-funded workshop dubbed “Redefining Radicalization: Streamlining PVE/CVE Efforts of Institutions” was even quite intriguing, to say the least.

It naturally elicits such questions as “What is the dominant ‘imagination’ about PVE? What is the conventional definition of violent extremism? What is the common thinking about radicalization? What is the problem with such an imagination, definition and thinking so much so that it demands re-imagination, redefinition and rethinking?”

Dissecting dichotomies   

As early as the first workshop on the definitions and conceptual assumptions of radicalization and violent extremism, three words could easily be identified as implicit culprits, viz. radicalization, violence, and extremism. Are they supposed to be culprits all the time? Guided by this question, the first open forum would border on intellectual jousting coupled with occasional jokes on Moro piracy vis-à-vis foreign intrusion.

If understood to mean “the process of instituting a fundamental and comprehensive change,” is radicalization always bad? Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were certified radicals who have brought scientific revolutions.

Is violence or the use of physical force always condemnable? Wars of national liberation – prior to, during and after the two world wars – were all violent in nature. George Washington was undoubtedly violent. So was Andres Bonifacio.

Is extremism always blameworthy? In the business world in which mediocrity – or to be average – is a heinous crime punishable by death, extreme ideas and innovative minds are natural recipes for survival and eventual success.

Even in the second workshop that attempted to identify the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ instances of radicalization, there was no sufficient time to appreciate the many grays in between these opposing poles (positive and negative). A knife in motion can either be ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’ while a knife in inertia is ‘amoral’. In other words, a knife used to commit a crime is ‘bad’ while a knife used in the kitchen to prepare foods for hungry stomachs is ‘good’ whereas a sleeping knife is neither good nor bad, in absolute sense.

In short, whenever there are artificial constructs, which are arranged hierarchically such that in the case of opposites in language one term is always privileged over the other, the anomaly of such dichotomies must be dissected.

How about PVE via ‘TVE’?

Meanwhile, from the first session down to the presentations of the three foreign experts on the second day, what can be observed was that the issue of PVE has been mostly treated and discussed through social science lenses – economic, sociological, psychological, anthropological.

On the other hand, what is given less attention is the fact that the main identity and meta-signifier of many violent extremist groups is religious in nature with very strong theological underpinnings.

In the case of ISIS, its main identity is rooted in the notion of ‘Islamic State’ and the revival of the caliphate (khilafah) which is an important theme in Islamic political thought and political jurisprudence.

There is no denying that social injustices, poverty, and psychological factors are significant drivers of violent extremism, but the fact is that these elements are dealt with by these groups within the framework of Islamic metaphors and symbols.

Is it enough to issue a religious edict against terrorism (http://armmrdi.blogspot.com/p/resource-centre.html) in Arabic language (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByHDjAlc3Q7ibE5mbWVYT0tHNjA/view) without translating it into any of the languages understandable to the local youth – such as English and Filipino?

Is it enough to argue that there is nothing Islamic in those groups (https://phisoblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/final-paper.docx), by citing a few Qur’anic verses here and there?

If you do so, they could instantly throw you with tens of Qur’anic verses, a double or triple number of narrations from the corpus of hadith (Prophetic traditions), and everything including the kitchen sink from the works of such Muslim figures as Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.

As such, in order for any PVE program to be considered comprehensive, there is a logical need to understand the ‘theology of violent extremism’ (TVE) – the same language these groups astutely use to convey their message and gain recruits.

On hindsight, unless these two points, among others, are addressed, PVE will remain a conceptual prison that necessitates Derridean ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ – and thereafter, re-imagination, redefinition and rethinking.

 

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Is the Philippine IR Discipline Ready to be Disciplined?

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Mansoor L. Limba on March 13, 2017

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /13 March) – Through a last-minute intervention by a mighty Pen, I was able to attend the 2017 founding Philippine International Studies Association (PhISO) International Conference on International Studies held at Far Eastern University (FEU), Manila.

With the theme “Disciplining the Discipline: The History, Theory and Practice of International Relations in the Philippines,” the three-day conference became a pioneering venue for presentation of papers at various panels such as “Critical Perspectives in Security and International Relations,” “Great Powers and Institutions in Global Politics,” “Non-state Actors and Transnational Relations,” “Challenges to the Concept of the State in East Asia: History, Rivalry, and Migration,” “Revisiting the Role of Non-state Actors in International Relations,” “The International Politics of Middle Eastern Societies,” and “Maritime Security among State and Non-state Actors in East Asia.”

Simultaneous with the conference presentation of papers was the holding of a workshop with the theme “Exploring Global South Contributions in International Relations” in collaboration with Global South Caucus on International Studies (GSCIS) by the International Studies Association (ISA). Aimed at serving as a critical academic platform “for thinking and doing IR differently and beyond the Global North’s IR perspectives,” the workshop advances “cosmologies of diverse ways of contemplating the ‘international’ as a form of study, discipline, and reality,” PhISO website would inform us.

Inspired by postmodernist Richard Ashley’s critique of ‘anarchy problematique’ in existing IR literature, my workshop paper examined the Qur’anic concept of ‘mustad‘afin’ (the downtrodden) as expounded by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder and reflected in the Iranian constitution vis-à-vis the Westphalian notion of nation-state sovereignty.

The paper presentations in both the conference hall and the workshop room were delectably peppered by two roundtables – “The Philippines and the International” and “Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Syllabus Development of International and Global Studies” – as well as three keynote speeches given by UP Diliman IR/IS professors, Dr. Clarita Carlos, Dr. Herman Joseph Kraft, and Prof. Frances Antoinette Cruz during the Opening Ceremony, Welcome Dinner, and Closing Ceremony, respectively.

Outside the walls of the conference hall and the workshop room, I would spend my light moments chatting with other participants or members of the secretariat beside the registration and information table, sipping hot coffee at the snacks room, or flipping through selected books at the book exhibit participated in by SAGE Publications, University of the Philippines Press, Ateneo de Manila University Press, De La Salle University Publishing House, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Far Eastern University Publications, Ateneo de Davao University Publishing Office, and Vibal Publishing.

For me, the center of attraction in the book exhibit was the booth of Liberland. Proclaimed for the first time on April 13, 2015 by a Czech right-libertarian politician and activist, the seven-square-kilometer Free Republic of Liberland, as I learned then for the first time, is a ‘sovereign’ state located between Croatia and Serbia on the west bank of the Danube river – though receiving no recognition yet from any member of the United Nations!

The ground-breaking conference, successful as it was, all started with a single person – the PhISO founder who is a young Mindanawan. As revealed by Prof. Carlos in her keynote speech, whenever she would meet him abroad many years back, her former student would never digress from talking about a national international studies association in the country. For me, more impressive than founding PhISO itself is his conspicuous magnanimity in not styling himself the founding president. He just settled with the vice presidency on publication, a position he is much competent in given his external publication experience and linkages.

On my way back to Makati City while reflecting on the points shared by the PhISO President in her closing ceremony’s keynote speech, I can’t help but ask myself, “Is the Philippine International Relations/International Studies discipline ready to be disciplined?”

The veteran gatekeepers of the discipline and vanguards of Philippine diplomacy and foreign service may say, “We have been disciplining it these decades through our works!”

The young IR/IS students from various universities and colleges, who constituted the bulk of conference participants, may counter, “Is there really the Philippine IR discipline, in the first place, to be disciplined?”

 

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Categories: International Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Light Moments in Vienna” Published Today!

LightMomentsinVienna

Published today!

Mansoor Limba, “Light Moments in Vienna” (Smashwords and Amazon, 2017), $2.99.

Published in both Smashwords.com andAmazon.com platforms, the book contains selected anecdotes of my personal experience while undergoing KAICIID fellowship training in interreligious and intercultural dialogue in Vienna, Austria.

Get you copy now and be part of that journey!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/703292

www.amazon.com/author/mansoorlimba

 

Categories: Interfaith and Intra-faith Dialogue | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Searching for that Etymological School

The etymological school

A screen shot from the film “3 Idiots”

Mansoor L. Limba on February 10, 2017

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) – The other day, I attended a convocation program of a high school student.

It was the third in the series for this school year.

As usual, it was a gathering of students, parents and teachers in which ‘top’ students were given recognition. Implicitly, their parents were accorded that recognition, as well. The names of the ‘best’ students in each academic subject were announced, too.

Such a scenario is known to all and sundry, I’m sure. And there are no limits to its concomitant clichés.

Perennial School

At the back of this gathering are the indescribable pressures to all stakeholders – the students, parents, and teachers. The students have to burn the midnight candle in order to keep their respective ranks or even improve the same. The ‘mediocre’ among them have to strive hard so as not to fail in each periodical examination. The parents are so religious in monitoring their kids’ nocturnal rites of studying their lessons, and even in becoming their own kids’ instant tutors. The teachers have to check the test papers and compute the students’ grades most meticulously, for even less than one percent grade difference between that of the ‘first’ and the ‘second’ rank matters a lot.

In this typical set-up, there are the ‘first,’ the ‘second’ and of course, the ‘last’ rank. These ‘lower’ ranks will be seated in front rows, but in public roll call, they would be called last. There seems to have common acknowledgment that the ‘honor’ students are ‘brilliant’ while the ‘average’ are intellectually ‘poor’. The former are impliedly deemed ‘famous’ while the latter ‘infamous’.

Etymological School

This educational setting, regrettably, is too much alien to the etymology or origin of the word ‘school’. Dictionary indicates that the word ‘school’ is derived from the Greek word σχολή (scholē), which originally means ‘leisure’ and also ‘that in which leisure is employed’. In turn, dictionary also tells us that ‘leisure’ means ‘free time when a person can choose what to do’.

Etymologically, therefore, a school is supposed to be a place for play and joy. It is a playground where learning and leisure are rolled into one. It is a tryst for the lovers of Sophia and logos. It is a rose-garden where the learners are jolly bees, untiringly sipping the nectar of knowledge and wisdom.

In that ‘etymological’ school, Dr. Howard Gardner’s 1983 theory of multiple intelligences is truly acknowledged not only theoretically, but more importantly, in practice. It is duly recognized there that every student is talented; that he or she is ‘intelligent’ with respect to the subject or activity he or she is good at and passionate about. In the end, the student will be advised to follow his or her own calling.

Moreover, that school is an arena where the teacher is a ‘leisure-giver’, and not as a ‘lecturer’ and ‘terror’. Far from being pedantic or doctrinaire, she is a provider of free time and breathing space for her co-players who are conventionally called ‘students’ or ‘pupils’. She is a motivator, rather than an intimidator. She is a mentor, rather than a dictator.

Simply put, in that school, pedagogy is playing.

This is why while still perennially searching for that elusive school, I do not find any motivation to post by myself in any social media platform the ‘honors’ of that high school student I mentioned above, who graduated Valedictorian in pre-school, Salutatorian in elementary, and is the consistent Rank 1 this school year.

For me, every student is Top 1 in his or her way.

Whether that etymological school exists or will exist, or not, and whether my quest for it is an exercise in futility or not, only time can tell.

 

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Categories: Education, Jargons and Terminologies, Philosophy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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