Current Events

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

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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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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.]

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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.]

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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.]

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Jawi Manuscripts and National Muslim Narrative

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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)

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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)

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Mediating Negotiation, Negotiating Mediation

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MAKATI CITY (20 September) – Following ‘Id al-Qurban last week, some 30 Moros from various sectors – revolutionary fronts, legal profession, civil society organizations (CSOs), local government units (LGUs), and the academe – gathered not to form a political party or anything of that sort, but to attend a four-day training on negotiation and mediation at Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City.

In partnership with the Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations) and UNDP Philippines, the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) organized the “Training-Workshop on Negotiation and Mediation as Instruments for Conflict Settlement” with the aim of providing the participants with the necessary skills sets that could “hopefully help them identify, discuss, and achieve common grounds on various issues confronting the Moro society and negotiate better”.

As his opening salvo, one of the two training facilitators introduced the Onion Model of Negotiation and Mediation, which identifies three essential elements that a negotiator or mediator should know. They are ‘positions’ (outer later), ‘interests’ (middle layer) and ‘wants’ (core). As Wilbur Perlot of Clingendael, a world renowned think-tank involved in the training of diplomats and negotiators the world over, was explaining each element of the Onion Model, I cannot help but look at it through IR theoretical lenses – both positivist and post-positivist.

As I was suspecting from the beginning, the model is indeed based upon liberalism and its basic assumptions on cooperation and drive for gains, as can be deduced from the facilitator’s answer to a lawyer participant who asked about the place of ‘motives’ in the model – ‘motives’ being equated with ‘wants’ which constitutes the ‘core’ in the model.

Contrary to the positivist liberalism which identifies ‘wants’ as the element on which the ‘interests’ and ‘positions’ depend, social constructivism – a midway post-positivist tradition – introduces an ‘inner core’ element – that is, ‘identity’. It propounds that one’s positions and interests are not dictated by his wants but rather by something which is continually shaping his wants. That is his ever-changing identity. Accordingly, not only one’s positions and interests that can be negotiated, but also his wants, provided that his identity also changes accordingly.

As Alexander Wendt would blurt, “Positions and interests are what negotiators make of them!”

Interestingly enough, the lecture sessions were interspersed with mind-bending exercises that simulate actual negotiation and/or mediation, while the refreshment breaks were peppered by spontaneous narration by MNLF and MILF negotiators of critical episodes of actual experiences negotiating with the Philippine government in the past.

The exchange of pleasantries and laughter among the participants, and at times, with the two facilitators as well as members of the secretariat, would remarkably defy the wide age disparity among the participants – from mid-20s to over 70 years old.

As part of the debriefing on “bargaining on the merits,” the other facilitator and mediation expert in both theory and practice, Mark Anstey of South Africa, told us the tale of two donkeys who finally found a win-win agreement on how to deal with two separate fodders. Instead of simultaneously consuming their respective fodders which is impossible to do given their being tied together, donkey A and donkey B agreed to consume together fodder A first and then fodder B. Within the framework of liberalism, it is as simple as that – the two parties agree together to come up with a win-win situation for them both.

But it is not so with structural realism which, like liberalism, is also a positivist tradition, but at the other end of the spectrum. Structural realism does not only settle with an apparent agreement but also questions the intention of each party and even entertains the possibility of deception on the part of one or both parties. Accordingly, after the two donkeys agree to consume together the two fodders, it is not unlikely that after consuming together the fodder A, donkey B is deceiving its counterpart as it intends to kill it so that it could consume fodder B by itself alone.

After undergoing the last exercise which was a simulation of tedious multilateral negotiation involving a concerned citizens’ group acting as the mediator, a central government, a regional police, a group of old protesters with specific constituencies, and a group of young protesters with particular constituencies, one realization I had is that mediating is doing a sort of negotiation while negotiating is undeniably inseparable with mediating works.

In short, mediating is negotiating, and vice versa.

 

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Presidentiables’ Peace Policy in Mindanao

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MAKATI CITY (26 April) – Attended by all the five presidential candidates, the third and last leg of the presidential debate series was held last Sunday at the Phinma University of Pangasinan in Dagupan City.

Following a town hall meeting format, the five presidential bets were asked questions from sectoral representatives whom the Commission on Elections (Comelec) media partner, ABS-CBN, flew in from different provinces. The issues raised by the selected sectoral representatives were Metro traffic and public transport, job security, health, foreign policy, basic public education, oversees Filipino workers (OFWs), and peace in Mindanao.

When asked by the concerned sectoral representative, Amina, who is an evacuee and divorcee with five children from Datu Piang, Maguindanao, on how they could put an end to conflicts in Mindanao, the presidentiables identified different causes of the conflicts, and offered corresponding solutions.

Defensor-Santiago

It was Sen. Miriam Defenso-Santiago’s turn to give the first answer, thus:

Una, we will dismantle the private armies. Merong private army na kaiba pa sa Armed Forces of the Philippines. Yan nanggagaling sa isang pulitiko diyan na maraming perang ninakaw sa gobyerno kaya, kaya niya magbuo ng isang army. At tapos itong army na ito, hindi na madisiplina dahil sinasabi nila nagtutulong naman daw sila sa gobyerno. Kaya yun ang unang-unang tutukan diyan sa iba na yan. Pangalawa, to stop the internecine conflict in Mindanao, we have to adapt their customary or traditional law into our Western style model of justice – of the justice system. For example, maganda naman yung mga ugali ng Tausog kaya ginawa namay municipal ordinance ng isang – ng isang bayan. Pagkatapos, meron silang sharia court, so maganda rin ang mga base. Kaya sa dalawang paraan na ito, maaaring magkamagkaka – magkatagumpay na tayo sa wakas at mahinto na ang giyera or terrorism sa Mindanao.”

Santiago identified (1) militarism of private armies and (2) conflict of laws (between the Philippine (Western) law and the Muslim customary or traditional law) as the cause of “the internecine conflict in Mindanao,” and in order to stop it, she is determined “to dismantle private armies” and “to adapt their customary and traditional laws into our Western style model of the justice system”.

By pinning her hope in these two solutions to put an end to “giyera (war) and terrorism,” the lady doctor of laws regrettably lumps together under the rubric of ‘terrorism’ all the diverse types of conflicts in Mindanao, whereas the main issue here is sovereignty-based; it is an issue of decolonization recognized in public international law; it is an issue of the inalienable right to self-determination of once a free nation or nations. This is apart from the other conflicts which are ideological in nature (such as with the armed leftists in the Philippines), terrorism in nature, or police cases of criminality and family feud. Moreover, the conflict of laws is just secondary in nature in comparison to the universal right to self-determination.

Roxas

The administration and Liberal Party candidate Manuel Roxas II replied in this way:

Para kay Aling Amina, alam ko po ang inyong sitwasyon. Nakwento din po sa akin ni Ina Ambolodto, isang tulad mo, laki sa pagiging bakwit doon sa Maguindanao ang kanyang istorya kung saan talagang nawalan ng pag-asa. Kaya natin isinulong yung Comprehinsive Agreement on Bangsamuro, para magkaroon na nga ng kapayapaan. Alam natin, kung walang development, walang kapayapaan. Pero kung wala namang kapayapaan, wala ding progreso at development. Kaya’t dalawang – dalawang kilos po ito. Sa isang bahin, yung ating gobyerno, sinusulong ang usapin para sa kapayapaan sa lahat ng mga sektor lalung-lalo na sa MILF doon sa Mindanao. At sa kabilang sektor naman, sa kabilang bahin, yung development, yung imprastraktura. Yung imprastraktura na naparating natin sa Mindanao ngayon ay doble sa nakaraang limang taon kumpara sa lahat ng imprastraktura na naparating doon noong nakaraang labing-dalawang taon noong nakaraang dalawang pangulo. Ganun ang pagtingin natin sa Mindanao. Ito, may konkreto tayong ginawa. Ginawa natin yung Comprehensive Agreement, isinulong natin ang BBL. Sa kasawiang palad, hindi ito naipasa sa Senado at sa Kongreso. Pag ako po ay naging pangulo, isusulong ko po yan. Dahil peace without progress hindi mangyayari, pero progress without peace ay hindi rin mangyayari. Dapat panahon na na maisakatuparan ang pangako ng Mindanao.”

As can be gleaned from Roxas’ formula, “Alam natin, kung walang development, walang kapayapaan,” the cause of the conflict is simply underdevelopment, and the solution to this, accordingly, is two-pronged: advancement of peace to attain development, and pushing for development in order to achieve peace.

Duterte

Incumbent Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte offered the following reaction:

“The war in Mindanao runs deep. You know, this may sound funny to you but when Magellan landed in Leyte, Islam was already planted firmly in Mindanao because they belong to a different (sultanate). Ang makakaintindi lang yong Sabah papuntang Malaysia. But you know, the conquerors and the Americans and the Spaniards, kinuha nila ang Mindanao which was already Islam. Kaya yong pumunta yong mga sundalo ng Espanyol pati Amerikano, giyera talaga. We have to talk and we have to correct the historical injustice. I tell you as a Mayor of the City of Davao… there will be no peace. There can never be a federal government until we talk to the NPAs which has been fighting us, I know, ‘70s estudyante na ako. Ngayon, 70 years old na ako. You know, it has to be a development but you have to make the peace there bago ka makagalaw. Pag hindi mo nakausap ‘to in peace talks, everything will fail. I would like to tell you and I’m telling now to the Republic of the Philippines, nothing will appease the Muslims, the Moro people, if you do not give them the BBL…”

From this reaction, Duterte identified the root of the conflict in Mindanao deep down in history, and for him, the solution is to correct the historical injustices by enacting into law the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is the latest agreed upon legal instrument for expressing and exercising the right to self-determination of the concerned people.

Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay addressed the question in this manner:

Alam po ninyo, Aling Amina, ako ho ay sanay na sanay makipag-usap. Bago ho ako napunta sa gobyerno, nakikipag-usap ako dun sa mga manggagawa at saka sa kanilang pinagta-trabahuan. Nung naging mayor po ako, yung mga hostage problems, nagkakaroon po ako ng resultang maganda. Ipagpapatuloy ko po, Aling Amina, katulad ng bawat Pilipino na tayo ho ay magkaroon ng talagang katahimikang, ah, na matagalan. Lasting peace, yun nga po ang sabi. Sa akin, sa aking palagay, yan hong lasting peace na yan eh makakamit kung mahaharap po natin ang problema ng kahirapan na naglipana po don sa inyong lugar. Yan po ang pinagmulan kung bakit ho meron hong gustong umalis, ito ho ay gumagamit ng dahas para ibagsak ang pamahalaan. Pero, ang puno’t dulo po nyan ay yung kahirapan. Sa aking pamumuno, aangat at aangat ang buhay po dun sa inyong lugar sa Mindanao, at yan ho ang magiging pangunahing dahilan kung paano ho tayo magkakaroon ng lasting peace sa inyong lugar. Oh, yun po ang aking pangako ho sa inyo. At nakatitiyak kayo, kasi ako ho aksyon agad, ginagawa ko, ha. I make decisions. As a leader, I am decisive. Mangyayari po yan.

From his answer above, it can be inferred that the Vice President simplistically pinpointed poverty as the problem, and accordingly, the sought-after lasting peace can be attained by addressing the problem of poverty.

Poe

Sen. Grace Poe responded to the query in this fashion:

“Amina, bilang isang babae, naiintindihan kita. Ang mga lalake, pasan siguro nila ang armas, pero pasan natin ang mundo sa ating balikat pag may gyera. Sapagkat tayo ang naiiwan para bantayan ang ating pamilya. Sa Mindanao, kapayapaan ay napakahalaga. Pero… doon sa mga terorista na nananakit o pumapatay, hindi natin dapat sila pagbigyan kung ayaw nilang makipagbalikan, makipag-usapan sa gobyerno. All-out war sa mga nagbabanta sa atin, pero dapat all-out development rin. Sa Maguindanao, wala pa yata kayong provincial hospital. Isa yan sa pangangailangan natin. Importante rin na pangalagaan natin ang imprastraktura sapagkat kung konektado kayo sa isa’t isa, mas madaling mababantayan ang mga teritoryo natin sa Mindanao. Ngayon, may problema, hindi lamang sa Pilipinas kundi sa Malaysia. Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, binara na nila yung border na hindi makakapunta doon ang ating mga kapatid sa Tawi-Tawi para mag-trade or barter. Kailangan magkaroon tayo ng bilateral talks para talagang sugpuin ang terorista sapagkat nawawala ng trabaho ang ating mga kababayan. Kung ako maging pangulo, ipagpapatuloy ko ang usapin kapaya – pang kapayapaan pero dapat kasama ang lahat. At hindi tayo dapat namimili ng iilang grupo lamang.”

As can be deduced from her offered solution of “all-out war” for those who refuse to negotiate with the government, as well as “all-out development” in the form of health services, infrastructure and trading opportunities, the cause of the conflict could be categorized as lack of social services.

Summary

In sum, the presidentiables’ peace policy in Mindanao can be given as follows:

Santiago: to dismantle private armies and adapt Muslim customary and traditional laws into the Philippine western style model of the justice system.

Roxas: to advance peace for development, as well as development for peace.

Duterte: to correct historical injustices.

Binay: to address the problem of poverty.

Poe: to provide social services.

The decision is yours, dear readers, which of these policies to buy comes the reckoning day.

 

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Revisiting the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology

Mahdawiyyah

MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Exactly eight years ago, while waiting for half a dozen professors constituting the defense panel to finish reading the last draft of my dissertation, I had embarked on the translation into English of a Persian book on the mystical subtleties of supplication (du’a’).

For two straight days, however, I had to set aside the Persian treatise and a couple of Persian-English dictionaries so as to meet the deadline for the submission of full paper for an annual international conference on Mahdism or Messianism.

I wrote a paper on the status of the Holy City of Jerusalem in Islamic Messianism, which I had sent on the last hour via email to the conference secretariat.

As in previous years, this international assembly which was held at OIC Summit Conference Hall in the northern part of Tehran was expectedly flocked by participants of diverse religious affiliations—Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians of various sects and denominations, and of course, Muslims belonging to different madhahib (schools of thought).

Twenty years ago, while we were sitting in front of a college in MSU-Main Campus, a Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine from Bukidnon told me, “Everything can serve any purpose. You see, if I position this horizontally (referring to a blue ballpen he was holding), it serves as a bridge, but if I put it this way (that is, vertically), it becomes a wall.”

Accordingly, ‘horizontal’ God is He who is viewed as the Creator and Lord of the universe and all mankind. This Supreme Being becomes ‘vertical’ when He is thought to have certain few ‘favorites’ at the expense of a ‘damned’ majority.

Religions also function as a bridge if the common elements among them such as spirituality, moral principles and a notion of Judgment Day are more emphasized. This function was illustrated by la convivencia (‘coexistence’ or ‘living together’) put into practice in Toledo in particular during the Moorish rule of Spain. As a microcosm of the atmosphere of religious tolerance then prevalent in the city, Jews, Christians and Muslims were working together in the city’s libraries, translating books from Arabic into Castilian Spanish and then into Latin.

On the contrary, there is no more need of embellishing this column with accounts of religions in ‘vertical’ position as human history is drenched enough with innocent blood spilled in their name.

Eschatology is no exception to this horizontal-vertical binary.

Etymologically derived from the Latin eschatos (‘last’ or ‘farthest’), eschatology refers to the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or the ultimate destiny of mankind. One of its important subjects is the idea of a ‘savior’ to come at the end of time. This awaited savior is known by various names and titles—Saoshyant, Messiah, Christ (in his Second Coming), and Mahdi, among many others.

Neither is Filipino folklore devoid of it. Legend tells us that Bernardo Carpio who is confined in a cave in Mt. Tapusi in Montalban Mountains (or Mt. San Mateo in Rizal) or trapped within two clashing mountains for a long time will one day come out to redeem the Philippines. (Apo Ferdie, as I was told by a Marcos loyalist when I was 12 during the 1985 Snap Election, was the personification of Bernardo! Remember the catchphrase, “This nation can be great again!”)

Sociologically, human society in whatever appearance it takes—race, nation, class or religious order—upholds this concept. As argued by Dr. ‘Ali Shari‘ati, a contemporary Iranian sociologist and historian, all known communities, without exception, display two common characteristics. First, every community holds that in the distant past it had a ‘golden age’ during which there was justice, peace, tranquility, and love, and that this golden age came to an end at some point in time and was followed by corruption, darkness and injustice. Secondly, they believe in a great and liberating upheaval in the future and a return to the golden age—the age of victory of justice, equality and brotherhood.

These beliefs obviously serve as a bridge as they give a sense of hope, determination and common universal vision and purpose for all peoples of diverse cultural currents and religious persuasions.

This is the ‘horizontal’ side of the story.

Its ‘vertical’ side is now spectacularly moving toward its catastrophic climax as suggested by the carnage of civilians perpetrated daily by ‘Islamist puritans’ in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, certain messianic extremists in Iraq are reportedly as zealous in resisting foreign occupiers as in engaging in intra- and inter-sectarian frenzy of reprisals, executions and vandalism.

Meanwhile, televangelists and other ‘new armies of God’ are passionate enough in freeing the genie of apocalyptic prophecies (e.g. Daniel 9, Ezekiel 38, Revelation 16:14-16) out of the bottle and wish for their governments to unleash trigger-happy dogs of war in the Middle East, thereby heralding the ‘coming of the Lord’.

An equally smart version of ‘vertical’ eschatology is the espousal of God’s alleged consignment of a piece of land to His selected ‘darlings’ to the detriment of the ‘outcasts’ and ‘bastards’.

In this critical moment when eschatology is extensively fielded via satellite and in the cyberspace as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), a universal campaign to stop its ‘verticalization’ is an indubitable recipe for planetary survival.

The annual worldwide gathering on Messianism/Mahdism is a seminal stride, though a limited one, in a long gradual process of forging a ‘Non-Proliferation Treaty’ specifically covering this more devastating type of WMD.

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