Monthly Archives: March 2017

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.]

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