Current Events

Already a Moot and Academic Question

During the recently concluded international conference on “Japan and East Asia in the Midst of Change: Carving a Path for the Region,” it’s my first time to experience being the last paper presenter in the concluding plenary session.(Panel on Japan and Mindanao: Past, Present and Future Challenges)
.
It’s also my first time to experience presenting a conference paper whose main question was rendered ‘moot and academic’ by a supervening event in such a short time.

On April 25, 2017 – that is, almost a month before the Marawi Siege (May 23) – I submitted to the conference secretariat the abstract of my paper “Is There Already ISIS in the Philippines? Its Security Implications Toward the East Asian Region.”

At a time when the military was persistently denying ISIS’ presence in the country (“Bay’ah: The Missing Link in the Military’s Denial of ISIS,”http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-bayah-the-missing-lin…), I can’t blame the leading member of the secretariat who confided to me later that upon receiving the paper abstract, he said, “Anong klaseng abstract ito; panakot!” (“What an abstract is this; it’s terrifying!”)

After enumerating five (5) security implications and briefly discussing each of them, I concluded thus, “The answer to the question – ‘Is there already ISIS in the Philippines?’ – is already moot and academic, with the siege of Marawi City on May 23, as illustriously conveyed by these photos in which the AFP is posed as ‘ISIS Hunter’. Can you hunt something that is not present?”

After my presentation,, a visiting Japanese scholar approached and whispered to me, “Do you think there is already ISIS in Japan?”

“I haven’t come across any news or information about its presence there.”

I was almost tempted to tell him also, “But there is already an entity in Japan, as elsewhere, which is tougher than ISIS – that is, the MISIS (wife)!”

Yet, I refrained from doing so, as I was afraid he would answer me, “That revelation of yours is also ‘moot and academic’!

Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Social Issues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Security Dimension of ASEAN-China Relations

GUANGZHOU CITY (17 July) – Shortly before boarding the aircraft for my early morning flight to China last week, I made my last Facebook post, thus: “FB Hibernation. I’m about to undergo a few days of Facebook hibernation. Keep in touch by email then. Logging out now…”

This I posted without stating the reason – that I was then about to enter a country wherein Facebook, Instagram, Google (Gmail, Play Store, etc.) and some other accounts cannot be accessed. In particular, I refer to the official invitation to participate in two academic events, viz. (1) a two-day International Conference and Ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of Southeast Asian Studies and Overseas Chinese Studies at Jinan University and the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and (2) an eight-day Asia-China Peace and Leadership Workshop (Economic Development, Regional Cooperation, and Conflict Transformation) organized by Jinan University’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Both events were or are being held in Jinan University, which is one of the oldest universities established in mainland China tracing back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Mandated to spread Chinese learning and culture from North to South and from Chinese overseas, the university was the first in this country to recruit foreign students and is currently the Chinese university with the largest number of international students.

The conference panels such as “Current Studies on Southeast Asia,” “Studies on Vietnamese History,” “Studies on Myanmar Politics,” “Overseas Chinese Studies,” “Language and Translation,” “Studies on Other Southeast Asian Countries,” “Studies on Malaysian Politics,” “Ethnic Chinese Business Network and Overseas Chinese,” “International Relations in Southeast Asia,” and “Studies on Chinese Malaysians” are interspersed with a keynote speech, a forum on Overseas Chinese Research, giving of awards, and a roundtable on ASEAN-China Relations.

The keynote speech was given by Prof. Anthony Reid of the Australian National University while awards were given to best papers published in Jinan University’s Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and the Yao Nan Translation Prize.

Apart from meeting presenters from the Philippines such as Prof. Rommel Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, Prof. Aileen Baviera of the University of the Philippine Diliman, and two fellow workshop participants from Ateneo de Manila University and Dela Salle University, the most interesting for me was the roundtable on ASEAN-China Relations on the first day, being attended by the consul-generals of the Southeast Asian countries in China.

The Philippines being the current Chairman of the ASEAN, the Filipino consul-general in China, Marie Charlotte G. Tang, delivered the Opening Address to the roundtable. In our personal conversation after the roundtable, it was equally fulfilling to realize that Ms. Tang was then my direct supervisor when I was undergoing practicum in the China Section, East Asian Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1995.

The roundtable discussants included Prof. Reid of Australia, Prof. Baviera of the Philippines, and four Chinese scholars headed by Zhang Zhenjiang, Dean of Jinan University’s School of International Studies and the Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies.

For almost two hours, the roundtable discussion significantly centered around the ASEAN’s degree of success or failure, various obstacles to ASEAN integration, and current challenges and prospects of ASEAN-China relations.

In the open forum, I raised the following question:

“Throughout this two hours Roundtable, I was expecting to hear – even a bit – about regional security from a non-conventional framework. By non-conventional framework, I refer to security threats not coming from a neighboring state or states, and a global or regional hegemon, but rather coming from transnational violent actors such as the ISIS.

“As the ISIS is recently losing territorial ground in both Syria and Iraq, the possibility for this group to look for Southeast Asia whose Muslim population is more than those of Arab countries combined together is becoming more palpable. As we all know, a city in an ASEAN country – I’m referring to Marawi City in the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao – has been captured by ISIS-linked groups, and the alleged reports of participation of some Indonesians and Malaysians in the siege must bring a toll of alarm to the region.

“My question is: Is it not high time now to include this security concern to the main agenda of the ASEAN-China relations?”

One of the discussants responded by saying, among others, that there have been already many ASEAN meetings about transnational issues including security threats coming from transnational non-state actors, but in the end she confessed that “But as to whether this concern will become part of the main agenda in the ASEAN-China relations or not, I don’t know.”

This confession, I think, is worth contemplating now, considering the existence of Uyghur Muslim minority issues in China and the threat to the Chinese government as expressed in ISIS media outlets.

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

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.

Categories: Current Events | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Media Narrative’s Textual Interplay on Marawi Incident

Abu-Sayyaf-2

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

Categories: Current Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Prison Called PVE

17361798_1429962713741864_1480340362185577446_n

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.

 

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

Islamic, Un-Islamic, or Islamist?

IslamicorunIslamic

Mansoor L. Limba on January 19, 2017

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /19 January) – At the sideline of a peace-building symposium-workshop at the height of the national electoral campaign period last year, the casual conversation between two long-time friends, a Muslim NGO worker and a Mindanao-based non-Muslim journalist, turned into a heated argument over an ‘accurate’ descriptive word for such groups as the Abu Sayyaf Group and others.

The NGO worker protested against the journalist’s use of the term ‘Islamic extremism’ to describe such groups or their activities. “They cannot be ‘Islamic’ because what they are doing are clearly against the teachings of Islam!” he would complain.

“But they are using Islamic symbols, metaphors and justifications!” the journalist would reason out.

As I was attentively listening to both arguments, I can’t help but call to mind postmodernism’s recurring themes, particularly Jacques Derrida’s ‘grammatology’ or semiotic analysis given in his various writings.

Derrida’s Grammatology

According to Derrida, who was a preeminent postmodernist figure, textual is the way in which the social world is constructed. For him the world is constituted like a text such that interpreting the world reflects what he calls “the textual interplay at work,” or the concepts and structures of language.

In order to expose these textual interplays, Derrida advances two ways, viz. deconstruction and double reading (Derrida, Of Grammatology, 1976). Anchored in the idea that seemingly stable and natural concepts and relations within language are in fact artificial constructs, arranged hierarchically such that in the case of opposites in language one term is always privileged over the other, deconstruction is 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, the first being a repetition of the dominant reading to show how it achieves its outward coherence and the second being the demonstration of the internal tensions within a text that result from the use of ostensibly natural stabilizations. His 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.

Applying both deconstruction and double reading, one would venture to ask, “If used to modify something praiseworthy, which term is privileged over the other – ‘Islamic’ or ‘un-Islamic’? How about if it is used to describe something blameworthy?” “In between ‘Islamic’ and ‘un-Islamic’ at both ends of a spectrum, is there any possibility of a third modifier? In other words, is there a possible gray in between white and black?”

Islamic?

The argument goes, “They are ‘Islamic’ groups in the sense that their members are Muslims, or at least, they claim to be such; they use Islamic symbols and metaphors such as the black flag with religious inscription in Arabic, and the utterance of ‘Allahu akbar’ (‘Allah is the greatest’) in their propaganda materials; they justify their acts as part of ‘jihad’.”

Backed up by this kind of reasoning, the label ‘Islamic’ inevitably gives the impression that the term being described is ideally representative of, or in line with, Islam and that there is a unanimous view of Muslims or the majority of them in this regard. But the truth of the matter is that it is not so. In fact, many Muslims, if not most of them, take offense with the media hype ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘Islamic extremism’.

As an expected drawback, such a label provides such groups an axe to grind about the allegation that “there is indeed a foreign (Western) conspiracy to demonize Islam and the Muslims,” thereby aptly dragging the ‘victimized’ typical Muslims into the warm embrace of those groups.

‘Maute Group’

The appellation ‘Maute Group’ also works the same way. What is the origin of the appellation? Do the leadership and members of the group explicitly identify themselves as such?

A background study of the group shows that since 2013 it has been identifying itself as ‘Dawlah Islamiyah’ (‘Islamic State’) [in Lanao] while its precursor was Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao-Black Flag Movement (KIM-BFM).

Then, who originates the ‘Maute Group’ appellation? If Google search were the basis, the media that oftentimes erroneously describes ‘Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao’ as ‘Khalifah’ (Caliph) (instead of ‘Khilafah’ (Caliphate)) is also the one that cogently coins the appellation, obviously for convenience’s sake.

What’s the justification? “Well, the founders of the group are two Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar, and a good number of its members are the founders’ relatives,” one might put forth.

Granted that tens, say fifty, members of the group bear the family name ‘Maute’, is this hasty generalization justifiable? Is it reasonable to implicitly implicate in the popular court of public opinion the hundreds, if not thousands, of members of the clan to the group and its notoriety?

Is this not playing the very game of the players one refuses to play with?

No wonder, for individuals for whom drowning in the deep blue sea of stereotyping and guilt by association is imminent, befriending the ‘devil’ of violent extremism is by far ‘a lesser evil’.

Un-Islamic?

The binary opposite of this ‘Islamic’ appellation is the simplistic dismissal and dissociation of such groups with Islam:

“The ISIS is un-Islamic. The activities of such-and-such groups are against the teachings and principles of Islam. Those who commit such acts are not Muslims, even if they call themselves ‘Muslims’. Terrorism is ‘haram’. No Muslim is a terrorist!”

The fact is that with all their doctrinal sophistication and communication astuteness, these groups use Islamic symbols and theological bases in such a way that awfully appeal to the innate idealism and heroism of young Muslims.

As you condemn terrorism, they would instantly present you with a plethora of Qur’anic passages, citations from the Prophetic tradition (hadith), and/or selective historical accounts in order to doctrinally justify their violent acts. Worse still, they might even declare that it is you who actually went outside the pale of Islam and is condemned to death for being a ‘murtad’ (apostate)!

No doubt, a regional Muslim authority’s issuance of a religious edict (fatwa) against terrorism in 2015 can be considered a laudable bold step (http://armmrdi.blogspot.com/p/resource-centre.html). Yet, the fact that the said fatwa is written in Arabic (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByHDjAlc3Q7ibE5mbWVYT0tHNjA/view) and that no official English and Filipino translations of it have been so far posted in the same website two years since its issuance is something regrettable, as it dismally fails to reach a wider audience – the overwhelming majority of local Muslims, the youth in particular, who are not Arabic literate.

In this age of information overload and unprecedented speed wherein religious sermons delivered on top of the wooden ‘mimbar’ (pulpit) of the mosque are replaced (or supplemented) by Facebook posts and Tweets in the cyberspace, the ‘khatib’ (preacher) needs more than a loud speaker.

The Middle Ground

After doing Derridian ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ of the terms ‘Islamic’ and ‘un-Islamic’ to describe certain groups, is ‘a third reading’ possible? Can we come up with a middle ground? Can we find a neutral platform?

As I was passively listening to the arguments of the journalist (who uses the appellation ‘Islamic’ to those groups) and the NGO worker (who, in contrast, prefers the label ‘un-Islamic’ to describe the same), I was imagining myself telling them both, “In my personal opinion, both of you have valid points in your arguments. Apart from ‘Islamic’ and ‘un-Islamic’, ‘Islamist’ is a due candidate to describe those groups – more accurately. The modifier ‘Islamist’ suggests that those groups adopt Islam – implicitly or explicitly – as their overarching ideology (‘ism’) but whether this adoption is religiously correct or not on the basis of the textual sources of Islam is a different story.”

In other words, the universe is not a monopoly of binary equations. The world 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 Derridian jargon, there is always a multiple reading of a text.

 

[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: Current Events, International Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Navigating Human Rights in IR Methodological Landscape (part 1 of 2)

Photo: http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz

Photo: http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz

MINDAVIEWS > MARGINALIA: Navigating human rights in IR methodological landscape (part 1 of 2)

Mansoor L. Limba on December 10, 2016

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /10 December) – Encyclopedia Britannica simply defines human rights as “rights that belong to an individual as a consequence of being human.” For John Vincent, this right consists of the following five elements: “a right-holder (the subject of a right) has a claim to some substance (the object of a right), which he or she might assert, or demand, or enjoy, or enforce (exercising a right) against some individual or group (the bearer of the correlative duty), citing in support of his or her claim some particular ground (the justification of a right).” (Human Rights and International Relations, p. 8)

They are a set of principled ideas about the treatment to which all individuals are entitled by virtue of being human. Due to the fact that one either is or is not a human being, human rights are held equally by all. Equally, since one cannot cease to be human being, regardless of his or her ‘inhuman’ conduct or condition he or she is currently in, these rights are said to be inalienable. (J. Donnelly, “The Universal Declaration Model of Human Rights: A Liberal Defense,” p. 2)

Human rights in IR

In due course, these ideas have earned general recognition as international norms defining what was necessary for humans to flourish, both in terms of being protected from abuses, and provided with the elements necessary for a life in dignity. Since a problem often becomes the subject of international action only after a dramatic event crystallizes awareness, Jack Donnelly argues that the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials (1945-46) at which leading Nazis were prosecuted under the new charge of ‘crimes against humanity’ crystallizes the world awareness on human rights as an international issue worth contemplating for—an issue which was reckoned before as a domestic affair within the cocoon of ‘sovereignty’. (Donnelly, International Human Rights, pp. 4-5)

While the Covenant of the League of Nations made no mention of human rights, the Charter of the United Nations’ Preamble stipulates a resolve “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” and its first article incorporates “encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all” as among the organization’s principal raison d’êtres. The day after opening for signature the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly (GA). Following the adoption of the seminal and most authoritative statement of international human rights norms, human rights continued to be discussed at the UN though this momentum was initially brought to a halt by the Cold War.

During the Cold War human rights widely became an arena of superpower struggle. Besides, both superpowers manifested a blatant disrespect for human rights. Derailing of work on further elaborations of international human rights standards is also an instance of arbitrary impacts of the Cold War. A case in point is the almost two decades time gap between the adoption of the UDHR and the completion of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—covenants that were envisioned as a single treaty in 1948. Though achieving only limited or partial success, in 1970s human rights norms saw a leap forward from standard setting to monitoring their compliance. As norms continued to be developed, multilateral, bilateral, and transnational human rights activities steadily increased through the 1980s. Then, with the removal of the Iron Curtain, the 1990 decade was a witness to “a most gradual, but generally positive, change as shown by a region-by-region review.” (Ibid., p. 13) These developments in the context of national, international and transnational normative deepening and the maturing of human rights as an international issue have been considered an indication of “a qualitative transformation of the international politics of human rights.” (Ibid., p. 17)

In sum, most international human rights treaties agreed upon after 1945 regulate the domestic behavior of governments towards their own citizens. With the significant expansion of such regimes within the last fifty years state actors face growing formal and informal limits to the policy choices they have. Human rights norms have experienced a norms cascade in the last two decades and are part of the transformation of the international system as indicated by the following facts:

“In 1975, only 33 countries had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, equaling 23 per cent of the UN membership at that time (144). By July 2001, 147 states had ratified the treaty (equaling 76 per cent of the total UN membership of 189) and 97 the Optional Protocol accepting supervisory powers of Human Rights Committee. In addition, 157 states have ratified the Convention against Racial Discrimination, 145 the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 168 the Women’s Rights convention, 125 the Convention against Torture, and 191 the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” (Handbook of International Relations, p. 524)

Nevertheless, it is proper to stress that the import of the origins, acceptance and evolution of norms depends on their ability to affect actual behavior beyond mere rhetorical commitment. This compliance on human rights norms can be viewed as a spectrum including (1) the ratification of a human rights treaty, (2) the fulfillment of reporting and other requests by supervisory bodies, (3) the implementation of norms in domestic law, (4) and rule-consistent behavior on the domestic level. (A. Kent, China, the United Nations and Human Rights: The Limits of Compliance, p. 236)

Alongside internationalization of human rights norms, there has emerged a growing moral consciousness among world public opinion of human rights issues and concerns. Along this line, state behavior is now more closely monitored with respect to the gulf between the declaratory commitments of governments to protect and promote human rights and their compliance with these standards.

In the succeeding sections the different theories on human rights from the methodological (ontological-epistemological) perspective are presented. These theories give different answers to the following question:

Why the theory of universal human rights and the everyday practice of human wrongs are heaven and earth apart? Are human rights abuses a product of the mere failure of governments to observe universal human rights principles both in letter and spirit? Or, perhaps, is it due to the fact that the very search for moral universals is itself a foundationally fallacious business?

Methodology in IR

As an institutionalized academic discipline, International Relations deals with two fundamental kinds of issues. One kind of issues is the substantive one that refers to the questions of facts. What are the contributory factors that led to the Iran-Iraq war? Who are responsible for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001? Is the computer technology an agent or product of globalization? What are the political and economic motives behind the US/UK aggression in Iraq? These are examples of substantive questions. The other type of issues is the methodological one. It pertains to conceptual and philosophical questions that are involved in the way the research in the discipline is carried out. Examples of methodological issues include the following: is the national interest of the state constitutive or regulatory, exogenous or endogenous? Is anarchy really what the states make of it? How plausible is the claim of Robert Gilpin that one can adopt realism as a methodological theory while adopting another normative view as he does? (Gilpin, Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order, p. 15)

Though students of the discipline are usually engrossed with the first kind of issues, it cannot be denied that the second affects the way how we view the former. In other words, substantive questions, including the ones stated above, also exemplify conceptual issues: What is ‘war’? What are the things that can be considered ‘contributory factors’? What constitute a ‘terrorist attack’? What is ‘terrorism’? What is ‘globalization’? What is the difference between ‘agent’ and ‘product’ of globalization? What are ‘political and economic motives’? What comprises ‘aggression’?

As far as methodological issues are concerned, two aspects usually come to the fore, viz. ontology and epistemology. Ontology is that branch of the philosophy of social science, which concerns with the nature of the social world. It is interested with the following question: Is there an objective reality ‘out there’ or is it a subjective creation of people? The extreme objectivist stance is essentially ‘naturalist’: the social world of international relations is basically a thing, an object, out there. (‘Naturalist’ in the sense that the natural and the social worlds are assumed to be the same and as such, the same types of instruments can be utilized to study them.) On the other end of the spectrum is the extreme subjectivist standpoint that is purely idealist: the social world of international relations is basically an idea or concept that people share about how they should organize themselves and relate to each other politically; it is constituted by language, ideas and concepts. (R. Jackson and G. Sorensen, Introduction to International Relations, p. 243) Thus, on the ontological axis we have subjectivism and objectivism.

As another branch of the philosophy of social science, epistemology pertains to the relation of our knowledge to that world. In other words, it is the study of how we can claim to know something: “how to know that we know what we know.” (O. Wæver, The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Making?, p. 16)

At one end of the continuum is the view of scientifically explaining the world. It is a matter of building a valid social science on a foundation of verifiable empirical propositions. In this light, IR theories are explanatory and foundational, i.e. the social world is external to the theory and the theory is based on a common and universally accepted platform. Besides, all truth claims can be judged true or false. The concern of the theory is to uncover regularities in human behavior and thereby explain the social world in much the same way a natural scientific theory does explain the physical world.

At the other end of the continuum is the idea of understanding the world. It concerns comprehension and interpretation of the substantive topic under consideration. Accordingly, historical, legal or moral problems of world politics cannot be translated into the terms of science without misunderstanding them. (Jackson and Sorensen, ibid.)

In this vein, IR theories are constitutive/reflective and anti-foundational, i.e. the theory actually helps construct the world and there is no universally recognized common denominator in which the theory can stand. The very concepts used to analyze the world help to make that world what it is. In addition, truth claims cannot be judged as such since there are never neutral grounds for so doing; each theory instead will define what counts as the facts and so there will be no neutral position available to determine between rival claims. Unlike the foundationalists who believe in the existence of meta-theoretical grounds for selecting between truth claims, the anti-foundationalists think that there are no such positions available, and that believing so is itself simply a reflection of an adherence to a particular view of epistemology. Hence, on the epistemological axis there are two types of classification, viz. foundationalism and anti-foundationalism. Corollary to this, IR theories are classified either as explanatory or constitutive/reflectivist.

Therefore, the social world or any social item (object/subject) such as international relations, world politics, or human rights occupies one of the following ontological-epistemological ‘box’: ontological subjectivism–epistemological foundationalism, ontological subjectivism- epistemological anti-foundationalism, ontological objectivism-epistemological foundationalism, and ontological objectivism-epistemological anti-foundationalism.

(Part 1 of 2)

 

[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: Current Events, International Relations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Super Rainbow in Vienna

superrainbow

MINDAVIEWS > MARGINALIA: Super Rainbow in Vienna

Mansoor L. Limba on December 2, 2016

VIENNA, AUSTRIA (MindaNews /02 December) – Most probably like you, when I was a child, seeing a rainbow would make me happy.  In the last week of May this year, I was unprecedentedly elated to see a different rainbow – a rainbow of diverse religions, cultures and countries.

It happened in Mergrande Beach Resort, Davao City during the orientation training for South and Southeast Asian Fellowship Program of Vienna-based KAICIID International Dialogue Centre. The two-week intensive training in interreligious and intercultural dialogues was attended by over 20 Fellows of diverse religious affiliations (Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism) from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

The one-year fellowship is an online and offline learning and training program that empowers institutions by providing capacity-building skills to select teachers. Aimed at facilitating dialogue encounters by giving these teachers the tools, experience, networks, and knowledge to pursue interreligious and intercultural dialogues and further be able to prepare their own students to become facilitators and leaders in interreligious dialogue, the fellows also learn how to train their own students in conflict transformation so as to be active peacemakers in their respective communities.

During the Fellows Program, the participants have the opportunity to develop and implement small-scale local and/or international initiatives, within their respective institutions or beyond. They also participate in and organize dialogue sessions, lectures, field visits, and conferences. After the one-year program, the Fellows become part of the KAICIID Fellows Network, which works on following up on the fellows’ progress, and invest in their long-term sustainability as resource persons in the field of interreligious dialogue and conflict transformation.

Amidst the chilling winter here in Vienna, this week I can see a potential super rainbow in the world – an unparalleled gathering of almost 70 Fellows (2015, 2016 and 2017) at KAICIID Dialogue Centre. These ambassadors who come from almost 30 countries the world over believe that amidst the current deluge of internecine wars, religious bigotry, and violent extremism, there is hope.

In continuously hoping in the realm of both theory and practice, their music is the Mozart of dialogue; their Burgtheater the theater of community reach-out; and their Hofburg the museum of shared experiences and common witnessing.

That hope is peace/salam/shalom/kapayapaan/kalinaw/kalilintad/sagiatra in the entire world.

 

[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: Current Events | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Jawi Manuscripts and National Muslim Narrative

20161020_094531

MINDAVIEWS > MARGINALIA: Jawi manuscripts and national Muslim narrative

Mansoor L. Limba on October 22, 2016

(A modified transcript of 20-minute presentation of the paper “Jawi Documents in Mindanao: Their Significance in Shaping National Muslim Narrative” at the 2016 Philippine National Historical Society’s National Conference, Almont Resort Hotel, Butuan City, October 20, 2016.)

Salamun ‘alaykum and good afternoon to all of you!

Before laying down my paper’s Statement of the Problem, let me first make some introductory remarks about the Jawi script and its manuscripts as well as its state of affairs through the years. I shall also clarify the operational meaning of “narrative” as it is used in “national Muslim narrative” in the paper. After stating the Statement of the Problem, I shall make some arguments and finally make a conclusion.

Jawi

“Jawi” is an Arabic relative noun which literally means “that which pertains to Java (Indonesia).” It is actually a catch-all term for the entire Malay world. In other words, it means “that which pertains to the entire Malay world; Jawi script means Malay script. Why not “Javi” (from the word “Java”) instead of “Jawi”? The simple reason is that there is no letter “v” in Arabic. (That’s why the Arabs would say “batatas” for “patatas” (potato);, and “babaya” for “papaya”.)

As part of Islamic legacy to the region, Jawi script is an Arabic-based one adapted by Southeast Asian Muslims, including the Muslims in the Philippines. In Mindanao and Sulu, the script had been used predominantly by Muslim ethno-linguistic groups such as the Tausug, Maguindanaon, Maranao, Iranun, Sama’, Yakan, and Sangil, among others, for putting into writing their languages.

Linguistically, Jawi manuscripts are of two types: Batang-a Arab (literally, ‘Arabic letter’) and Kirim. Batang-a Arab is the kind of Jawi that refers to the Arabic script used in any type of document, while Kirim refers to a written text of local dialect literature that uses the Arabic-based script.

The Jawi was used to record both non-religious and religious literary materials. Non-religious literature includes epic, stories, short love poems, love fest, sayings, drama, puzzles and riddles, rhymes, and literature for children. Religious literature includes dekir/dhikr (incantations), khutbah (sermons), Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), explicatory statements about Islam, du‘a (supplications), religious songs, and kisa (Islamic stories), among others.

Jawi through the years

What happened to the Jawi script and manuscripts through the years?

Since the Philippine independence after the Second World War, there had been a decrease in the use of Jawi script due to the upsurge in the nationwide promotion and use of the English language in the formal educational system. This has been exacerbated further since the 1970s due to increase in the influence of strict interpretation of Islam that denounces many local Muslim beliefs and practices, and brought by local Muslim graduates from Middle Eastern universities.

No doubt, the coming of this new set of Muslim scholars has created tension between their tendency to homogenize the interpretation and practice of Islam, and the local Muslim populace’s inclination to cling to the indigenous practices of their religion, as also reflected several times in Thomas McKenna’s Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines (2002).

You may add to this state of affairs the fact that there have been no extensive studies about the Jawi ever made in the country. An exception to this, to my knowledge, is the study series made of Dr. Samuel K. Tan, the most known of which are Surat Sug in two volumes and The Surat Maguindanao, and the journal articles by a Japanese scholar, Prof. Midori Kawashima, about the Jawi in the Ranao region.

Statement of the problem

This paper argues that the preservation and promotion of the Jawi script and documents can contribute to shaping national Muslim narrative.

Narrative

By “narrative” here we mean some kind of retelling, often in words, of something that happened (a story). It is not the story itself but rather the telling of the story. A story is just a sequence of events while narrative is the recounting of those events, perhaps leaving some occurrences out as they are from some perspective insignificant, and perhaps emphasizing others.  In short, narrative is a point of view on a story. In this paper, it is limited to the Muslims’ narrative of their story or stories of themselves and the narrative of their story or stories of others.

Shaping Muslim narrative

Going back to the Statement of the Problem, it is humbly argued that the preservation and promotion of the Jawi can contribute to shaping national Muslim narrative in three fundamental ways: (1) a culturally integrative understanding of Islamic principles, (2) tolerance of diverse Muslim practices, and (3) emulation of chivalry in dealing with perceived enemies.

(1) a culturally integrative understanding of Islamic principles: In Jawi khutbahs, dhikr and other religious documents, there is a clear affirmation of an understanding of Islamic principles (for example, tawhid  or Islamic monotheism) which is integrative of indigenous cultural elements, as embodied in the pandita figure and rituals. (Pandita is etymologically Sanskrit for “learned” and “knowledgeable” and it refers to the Muslim traditional spiritual guide.)

(2) tolerance of diverse Muslim practices: Jawi epics and stories would introduce us to indigenous dresses such as malung (female lower-body dress) and tubaw (male headgear) as well as the kanduli (traditional food offering) which have been tolerated and even accommodated as native expression of Muslim code of attire and charity-giving, respectively.

(3) emulation of chivalry in dealing with perceived enemies: Among the most famous Islamic stories (kisa) is Beraparangan Muhammad ‘Ali Hanafiyyah, which is a local rendition of a popular kisa known as Hikayat Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah to Muslims in many parts of Southeast Asia. Found in different versions in the region, it is a narration of martyrdom of Amir Husayn, the second grandson of Prophet Muhammad. As the epic story graphically touches on such themes as the identity of combatants and non-combatants, rules of engagement in war, and giving water not only to the enemies but even to their riding animals, it illustriously depicts an epitome of Muslim chivalry.

Conclusion

As the conclusion, let me give the following observations: First, there has been insufficient study being conducted on the Jawi script and documents in Mindanao, much less any move to preserve and promote the same. Secondly, due to this lack of attention, they run the risk of being relegated to the dustbin of oblivion and extinction. Thirdly, the preservation and promotion of the Jawi script and documents can contribute to shaping national Muslim narrative in three fundamental ways: (1) a culturally integrative understanding of Islamic principles, (2) tolerance of diverse Muslim practices, and (3) emulation of chivalry in dealing with perceived enemies – something which is quite remote from terrorist acts associated with some violent groups in the country.

Thank you!

(Also published in http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2016/10/marginalia-jawi-manuscripts-and-national-muslim-narrative)

Categories: Current Events, History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bay’ah: The Missing Link in the Military’s Denial of ISIS

bayah

MINDAVIEWS > MARGINALIA: Bay’ah: The missing link in the military’s denial of ISIS

Mansoor L. Limba on October 8, 2016

(A modified transcript of 15-minute presentation of the paper “The Sociological Significance of Bay‘ah in Islam: The Missing Link in the Philippine Military’s Denial of ISIS’ Presence in the Philippines” at the 2016 Philippine Sociological Society’s National Conference, Ateneo de Davao University, October 7, 2016.)

Salamun ‘alaykum and good afternoon to all of you!

The earlier three presenters have made mention of three stimulant phrases – namely, ‘Davao Death Squad,’ ‘Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak Massacres’ and ‘poetics of violence,’ respectively – which I think, will be enough to keep us awake in this ‘holy hour’. Be that as it may, at the outset, I still deem it proper to give you a guarantee –and that guarantee is that although my paper presentation may be intriguing and stimulant, it will be in no way terrifying or horrible.

Introduction

To begin with, it is a fact that from the inception of ISIS in Syria among the rebel groups fighting against the Asad regime, to its spread in Iraq and the rise of a certain Abu Bakr Baghdadi as its Leader, to the almost daily atrocities claimed by it in various countries, a specter of an unprecedented violent religious extremism has caught renewed international attention.

It is also a fact that the reported presence of ISIS in the Philippines since August 2014 manifests in many ways, namely: (1) video recorded pledging of allegiance (bay‘ah) to the ISIS global leadership; (2) videos of military training drills and camps with ISIS flags and other emblems; (3) video messages of militant campaigns against the Philippine government and other perceived enemies; and (4) statements of allegiance and admission of violent acts.

Amidst the existence of these various manifestations of the growing influence of ISIS on local Muslim individuals and groups in the Philippines, in general, and in Mindanao, in particular, since 2014 up to the present there has been a persistent Philippine military authorities’ public denial of ISIS’ presence in the country.

* November 19, 2015 – Maj. Gen. Raymundo Pangilinan, 6th ID commander: “[There is] no monitor of any presence of ISIS members or sympathizers in the region.” (http://cnnphilippines.com/regional/2015/11/19/No-presence-of-ISIS-in-Central-Mindanao-AFP-PNP.html, etc.)

* November 26, 2015 – Maj. Filemon Tan, Westmincom spokesperson: “This group has not been officially recognized as ISIS even though they have an ISIS flag.” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/742814/8-gunmen-carrying-isis-flags-killed-in-clash-with-govt-troops-in-sultan-kudarat#, etc.)

* November 27, 2015 – AFPSpokesperson BGen. Restituto Padilla: “The bandit group which clashed with government forces in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat… is not linked to ISIS.” (http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/v1/11/28/15/slain-sultan-kudarat-bandits-not-tied-with-isis-afp, etc.)

* April 14, 2016 – AFPSpokesperson BGen. Restituto Padilla: “There is so far no clear, direct link between local terror groups and ISIS.” (http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/04/14/isis-basilan-attack.html, etc.)

* August 12, 2016 – Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP Public Affairs Office Chief: “Angpaniniwalanamin [What we believe] is still there is no ISIS in the Philippines.” (http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/08/11/ISIS-planning-to-bomb-Ms.-Universe-2016-pageant.html, etc.)

* September 6, 2016 – Maj. Filemon Tan, Westmincom spokesperson: “There is no ISIS-linked group behind Davao blast.” (http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/09/05/16/westmincom-no-isis-linked-group-behind-davao-blast, etc.) (It is to be noted that this statement was made just four days after the bloody incident and at the time when there was no result yet of the PNP-CIDG investigation.)

Statement of the problem

Against this backdrop, my paper explores the sociological significance of bay‘ah (pledge of allegiance to a leader) in Islamic political thought as the missing link in the Philippine military’s public denial of ISIS’ presence in the country.

In particular, it attempts to address the following questions:(1) What is the meaning and value of bay‘ah in Islamic political thought? (2) Are there local groups and individuals pledging allegiance to ISIS global leadership? (3) What is the implication of these reports of pledging of allegiance toward the Philippine military’s persistent public denial of ISIS’ presence?

Meaning and value of bay‘ah

Let us deal with the first question. To understand the meaning and value of bay‘ah, it is essential to know the twoschools in Islamic political thought, which we shall call in this paper as the Theory of Appointment and the Theory of Non-appointment. The Theory of Appointment argues that there is an explicit designation of successorship to Prophet Muhammad while the Theory of Non-appointment maintains that there is no such explicit designation and it is the duty of the Muslim community as a whole to designate their leader.

Under the Theory of Appointment, which is likewise known in ‘ilm al-kalam (scholastic theology) asimamah (Imamate), the Leader’slegitimacy (mashru‘iyyah) emanates from God through the Prophet’s explicit designation while his acceptability (maqbuliyyah), which is a prerequisite of establishment of any government,stems from the people.

In the Theory of Non-appointment, which is also known in ‘ilm al-kalam as khilafah (Caliphate), the Successor’slegitimacy as well as acceptability originate from the people’s pledge of allegiance (bay‘ah).

As we can see in Muslim history, the first Caliph, Abubakr ibn Abi Quhafah, obtained the office of caliphate through the bay‘ah of selected Companions (sahabah) in Saqifah and subsequent bay‘ah of the majority. The second Caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, became caliph through the nomination of the first Caliph and subsequent bay‘ah of the majority. The third Caliph, ‘Uthman ibn al-‘Affan, assumed the caliphate through a rigid six-man council and subsequent bay‘ah of the majority. The fourth Caliph, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, became the caliph through community bay‘ah after the death of the third Caliph.

After less than a year’s assumption of Hasan ibn ‘Ali to the caliphate, the known caliphates in Muslim history are the following: Umayyad Caliphate (661-750 C.E.), Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258), Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo (1261-1517), and the Ottoman Caliphate (1299-1922).

Since 1924, the official abolition of the Caliphate with the birth of modern-day Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal ‘Ataturk’, revival of the Caliphate has been a central narrative of Muslim movements – violent or non-violent – throughout the Muslim world.ISIS is just one the latest of these movements.

Local Muslim groups’ bay‘ah to ISIS

Let us now proceed to the second question. So far there have been reports of pledging of allegiance (bayàh)to ISIS of the following groups: (1) Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), (2) Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), (3) Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines, (4) Khilafah Islamiyah Movement/Black Flag Movement (Maute Group), and (5) Rajah Solaiman Movement, (6) BangsamoroIslamic Freedom Movement.

  1. Abu Sayyaf (Island Provinces):January 4, 2016 – “A new video from Mindanao which began circulating on the dark web jihadi forum Shumukh al-Islam on January 4, 2016 shows Abu Sayyaf leader IsnilonHapilon marching with other extremist leaders from Sulu and Basilan, including Abu Sharifah, the leader of Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines, among the most aggressive and targeted Filipino groups linked to ISIS.” (http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/isis­in­philippines­a­threat­to­region, etc.)
  2. BIFF (Maguindanao, North Cotabato& Sultan Kudarat):August 16, 2014 –“BIFF, Abus pledge allegiance to ISIS” (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/109452/biff-abus-pledge-allegiance-to-isis, etc.)
  3. Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat& South Cotabato):August 2014 –“Apartfrom the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), another violent extremist group linked to ISIS is Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines, the group that reportedly released a video, threatening to deploy suicide bombers in the Philippines and make the country a ‘graveyard’ for American soldiers, after pledging allegiance to ISIS.”(http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/isis­in­philippines­a­threat­to­region, etc.)
  4. Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (Lanao del Sur):February 2016 – “Yet another group linked to ISIS is the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM), also known as the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao-Black Flag Movement, which caught public attention in late February 2016 when it occupied the municipal hall of Butig town in Lanao del Sur that escalated to 10 days of military offensive operations, in what is believed to be an attempt to “inflame the war in Southern Philippines” amid the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Philippine Congress.” (http://www.manilatimes.net/attempt-at-inflaming-war-amid-waning-truce-fails/248709, etc.)
  5. Rajah Solaiman Movement (Luzon):July 7, 2014 – “Prisoners in Philippines show allegiance to ISIS.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNSaG_mwVCA and March 2015 – http://www.getrealphilippines.com/blog/2015/03/isis-covert-operations-in-southern-mindanao-downplayed-by-pnoy, etc.)
  6. BIFM, a new breakaway faction from BIFF (Maguindanao):October 1, 2016 –“BIFF renegades launch more radical ISIS-style group.” (http://www.philstar.com/nation/2016/10/01/1629294/biff-renegades-launch-more-radical-isis-style-group#, etc.)

Local Muslim individuals’ bay‘ah to ISIS

In addition to groups, there are also individuals who have reportedly pledged their allegiance to ISIS leadership. Among them are a certain mufti (rector) and a congregation in Marawi City, around 100 youth in Basilan, and also a hundred inmates of Bicutan Prison.

  1. Marawi mufti congregation: September 19, 2014 –“A Facebook user named Abu uploaded photos showing around people – some of them holding ISIS black flags – pledging support to the ISIS inside the Islamic Center mosque in Marawi City.” (http://www.manilatimes.net/military-investigates-oath-taking-marawi-city/128633, etc.)
  2. 100 youth in Basilan:September 24, 2014 –“Asreported by ABS-CBN News, Mayor Joel Maturan of Ungkaya Pukan town, around 100 youth have joined the ISIS in Basilan.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhejnwnMfrE, etc.)
  3. 100 inmates of Bicutan Prison (where many suspected Abu Sayyaf Group and Rajah Solaimain Movement members are incarcerated):July7, 2014 – “Prisoners in Philippines show allegiance to ISIS.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNSaG_mwVCA, etc.)

Bay‘ah’s implication to military’s public denial

As can be seen from the military’s public denial of ISIS’ presence in the Philippines, we can say that there is indeed a little appreciation or understanding of the sociological significance of bay‘ah or pledging of allegiance to a leader. This sociological significance can be summarized in these two ways: (1) It creates a mutual set of rights and duties between the global leadership and local followers, and (2) it significantly boosts the legitimacy of both parties – the main group and the local groups. It practically cements the main group’s claim to be the existing Caliphate, while at the same time, it can effectively be utilized by local groups to refute the usual accusation of their being rōnin (warriors without a master) – in the Japanese parlance – and their being “rebels without a cause.”

Conclusion

To conclude, there are only two possibilities here: either the Philippine military believes in its public denial of ISIS’ presence in the country, or it does not believe in its own public denial.

Assuming the military believes in its denial that “There are no ISIS in the Philippines” or “They are only ‘ISIS-inspired’ or ‘ISIS sympathizers’,” then it is like saying,“There are no terrorists in the Philippines” or “They are only ‘terrorism-inspired’ or ‘terrorism sympathizers’”!

In case it does not actually believe in it, the problem is that the Commander-in-Chief is implicitly or explicitly claiming otherwise in his recent sortie of speeches.

I leave the final judgment and conclusion to all of you, distinguished scholars, experts and sociologists. Thank you!

(Also published in http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2016/10/marginalia-bayah-the-missing-link-in-the-militarys-denial-of-isis)

(Photo via WikiMedia)

Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Middle East | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.