International Relations

The Power of International Quds Day in the Cyberspace – In Amazon Now!

Alternative Title: “Barry Barnes’ Theory of Power as Social Order: The Case of International Quds Day in the Cyberspace”
Author: Mansoor Limba
Pages: 237
eBook Price: US$4.99
An Excerpt of the Book: http://mlimba.com/barry-barnes-theory-of-power-in-the-conte…

Amazon Link: www.amazon.com/author/mansoorlimba

Table of Contents

Preface
Chapter 1 – Research Design
Statement of the Problem
Review of Related Literature
Power and Social Order
Cyberspace and International Quds Day
Secondary Questions
Hypotheses
Objective and Significance of the Study
Theoretical Framework
Scope and Limitation of the Study
Research Methodology
Outline of Contents

Chapter 2 – Power and Social Order: The Theoretical Framework
Nature of Power
Approaches to Power Analysis
Cyberpower or Power in the Cyberspace

Chapter 3 – International Quds Day
Prior to Announcement of International Quds Day
The Announcement of International Quds Day
Subsequent International Quds Day Messages

Chapter 4 – Demonstrations on International Quds Day: The Routine (Afghanistan, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe)
The Routine
The Anti-Routine

Chapter 5 – International Quds Day as Demonstrations: The Knowledge
Cyber-Demonstrations: Their Various Forms
1. Messages/Statements
2. Invitations
3. Feature articles
4. Web sites and pages
5. News and Audio/visuals
Cyber-Demonstrations: Their Merits and Demerits
Merits
1. Global
2. Real-time
3. Permanence
4. Virtual freedom
5. Anti-hierarchy
6. Variety of demonstrations
Demerits
1. Limitation of participation and audience
2. Censorship and control
3. Illusion of permanency

Chapter 6 – International Quds Day as Muslim Holiday: The Social Order
Social Order and Holiday
Quds Day as Muslim Holiday—the Social Order
Campaign for Removal of Quds Day from Online Calendars—the Counter-Current

Chapter 7 – Empirical Data: The Results of Opinion Survey

Chapter 8 – Conclusion

Appendices
Appendix 1: Questionnaire
Appendix 2: Calculation of Mean
Appendix 3: Calculation of Standard Deviation
Glossary
References
Bibliography
Webliography

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Bus 18

During the first week, part of our training was the afternoon visit to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), with the purpose, among others, of understanding better the difference mediation and arbitration. 

As indicated in the pertinent memo, from the Clingendael we would take Bus 18 of the public transport to go to The Hague Central (Den Hag Centraal), and from there we would take Bus 22 to go to the PCA. We were accompanied by two interns, Maxim and Melanie, who would serve as guides.

While we were still walking toward the Clingendael bus station along with our two guides, Damien mounted the bus which left us all! (Public bus leaves and arrives at every station at a particular time, and the driver never reopens the door once closed for departure from one station to another.)

Naturally, Maxim and Melanie were very much worried, thinking that Damien would get lost in The Hague Central, or worse still, in his way to the PCA. Since Day 1 – Orientation Day – Maxim’s favorite maxim he would share to us is this: “If you have difficult question, ask Sharon!” Sharon, by the way, is the training’s overall facilitator who had been in contact with us from the very beginning.

Under this situation wherein one of the trainees potentially gets lost in the urban jungle of The Hague during a chilling winter afternoon, Maxim had no option but to dexterously follow his own maxim. He immediately grabbed his mobile and phoned Sharon: “Hello, Sharon! Damien mounted the bus which left us. He is now alone in The Hague Central. Do you have his number? How about his Facebook account? Is there any other way to contact him?”

Trying to assure Maxim, Sofhie whom we fondly call “Mama Clingendael” or “Mama Cling” for short, said, “Don’t worry, Damien is adult enough to know his options. Either he would immediate alight at the next bus stop and wait for us, or get back to Arendsdorp and relax.” (Arendsorp Complex is our momentary detention center whose de facto warden, Mr. George, is responsible for initiating its infamous two-level sensor-operated door.)

Worried and making the wildest speculations on what would happen to Damien, we all mounted the next bus.

As the bus reached the next station, we were all happy to see Damien, shivering notwithstanding his thick winter garment, just waiting in the said station.

“Look, Damien is here!” we all exclaimed.

In spite of the gloomy winter, Maxim’s face brightened once again. So was Damien’s.

Inside the bus on our way to The Hague Central, I noticed Melanie memorizing our names, making many rehearsals therein. Since then, she has been able to memorize the names of all of us 20. I’m sure, the name “Damien” was the first registered in her mind and could not be erased even by the strong wicked storm that swept the whole Netherlands and some neighboring countries the following day.

Since then, everytime we would take Bus 18 as a group, we would simultaneously ask, “Is Damien around?”

This is one reason why we named our group “Bus 18 Batch”.

Tips:
1. To be the first is not always good.
2. Always remember that the Bus has specific time to leave and arrive at a given station.
3. While serving as tour guide to a group, never allow anyone to go ahead or be left behind without your explicit consent.

(An excerpt of my forthcoming travelogue, “HUGGING THE HAGUE: WINTER STINT AT THE NETHERLANDS INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

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On Global Rectificatory Justice

Just last Friday afternoon, I received an invitation to be a Reactor to a Lecture on ‘Global Rectificatory Justice’ to be given today by a distinguished professor. Also enclosed in the invitation was a photocopy of the 22-page chapter 1 (Introduction) of the book which the Lecturer has recently written about this topic.

As the basic idea of ‘rectificatory justice,’ when harm is perpetrated, the victim can claim redress under the moral principle of non-maleficence or ‘do-not-harm’. Building his argument for rectificatory justice around this principle, the author maintains that during the era of colonialism, colonies were harmed in different ways (interventions, war and occupations, slavery and forced labor, genocides and massacres, extermination of domestic religions and cultures, forced replacement of populations, economic dominance and exploitation, and various other kinds of human rights violations), and that individuals and peoples who were victims of these harmful acts have a right to redress.

Since I cannot physically attend the Lecture due to another commitment set earlier, let me take this platform to share my immediate observation:

‘Rectificatory’ justice is yet another ‘cool’ modifier for the word ‘justice,’ the others being ‘distributive,’ ‘compensatory,’ ‘transitional,’ and many more. As you may have no qualms in agreeing, justice is such a concept that whenever you attempt to modify it, you will definitely run the risk of delimiting and restricting its meaning. Even without modifying it, justice which essentially means “putting everything in its proper place,” distributes something, compensates something, provides a transition, and of course, rectifies something. Justice is no justice at all if it does not imply all these things.

On our way to the airport the other week, a Lebanese friend of mine was narrating his visit to selected places in Rwanda where post-conflict ‘transitory justice’ is being enforced. “As you see, we coin the term ‘transitory justice’ whenever the Authority cannot or is not willing to implement justice in the strictest sense of the word,” he told me.

Categories: Current Events, Ethics and Mysticism, International Relations, Jargons and Terminologies, Seminars, Trainings, and Conferences | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Mediating ‘Insider Mediation’

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/4 February) – One lazy afternoon, I received an email from a friend who shared a link and asked me if I’m interested to apply for a United Nations Development Program (UNDP)-sponsored short course on negotiation and mediation as an instrument of conflict resolution being regularly conducted by a think-tank in the Netherlands.

Naturally, I said resoundingly, “Yes!” So, as it was the deadline for submission of the application, I immediately filled up the online form for about an hour and then clicked “Submit”! I was then hopeful to be accepted, but not necessarily expecting.

Two weeks after, I received an email of my application’s acceptance with much jubilation. “Back to school again,” I told myself, “and this time, in The Hague-based Clingendael Institute.”

Literally means “a valley in the dunes” and located in a 17th century manor house surrounded by a large park, Clingendael, or the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, is a leading think-tank and diplomatic academy in the world, whose primary aim is to contribute to a secure, sustainable and just world.

As a result of fusion of five smaller institutes in January 1983, Clingendael is unique for its multifunctional character of regularly conducting a host of integrated training, research, and educational consultative activities under a single roof.

Since 2015 Clingendael has been partnering with the UNDP in its initiative since 2004 to support insider mediation capacity-building in about 40 countries, by providing mediation and negotiation trainings.

Attended by 20 participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Venezuela, this fourth batch of “Negotiation and Mediation Training as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution for Insider Mediators” was a combination of interactive simulations to improve the participants’ skills and case studies to help them reflect on both the theory and practice of mediation.

In a bid to provide the trainees with an in-depth understanding of how negotiations work so as for them to effectively facilitate a negotiation as a mediator, the first week was primarily focused on negotiation training (discussions on negotiation theory, strategies and simulations), while the second week concentrated on mediation and the specific role and skills of insider mediators and their role within the UNDP framework, with particular emphasis on understanding modalities for inclusivity and ownership of the peace agenda.

The classroom training sessions were also ideally interspersed with an educational visit to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Peace Palace in The Hague and to Von Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

After our training session on stakeholders- and negotiators-mapping on the second week, I saw myself accompanying three fellow Southeast Asian trainees and the representative of an international non-government organization (NGO), in going to Utrecht by train to meet with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Peace Panel Chairman Fidel Agcaoili, and NDFP Peace Panel member Connie Ledesma, in order to listen to their narratives and concerns on the stalled negotiations with the Philippine government.

The following day, three of us trainees from the Philippines were invited at the embassy by the Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands, His Excellency Mr. Jaime Victor B. Ledda, for a casual discussion on various issues including our two-week training and the peace process with the NDF.

Listening to the two narratives, I observed that each camp has identified its own ‘culprit’ of the stalled peace process: the Philippine government’s principal (Pres. Rodrigo Duterte), or the lack of enabling environment for the peace talk.

This personal observation inevitably calls to mind the concluding remark of our trainer on conflict analysis: “Conflict analysis, therefore, is not about the conflict per se; it is rather about you; it is about your perception of the conflict!” In other words, it is not about the story, but rather your narrative of the story.

Paradoxically, after almost two weeks of training on ‘insider mediation,’ our last trainer told us, “If you are an ‘insider mediator’ then you don’t exist!” As he clarified in the open forum, the reason for this claim is that every mediator is invariably a stakeholder in the conflict he or she is mediating and that mediating is becoming a lucrative business for some ‘mediators’.

In short, it is mediating ‘insider mediation’.

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20 Spoilers

As they are released from the momentary detention at Arendsdorp Complex, 20 are added to the number of spoilers, provocateurs, rebels, and fighters in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Venezuela.

These 20 spoilers identify themselves as “Bus 18 Batch”.

(An excerpt of the forthcoming travelogue, “Hugging the Hague: Winter Stint at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)

 

     

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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)
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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’!

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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.

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A Prison Called PVE

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Mansoor L. Limba on March 20, 2017

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

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

PVE. Yes, it’s Preventing Violent Extremism.

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

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

Dissecting dichotomies   

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about PVE via ‘TVE’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Is the Philippine IR Discipline Ready to be Disciplined?

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Mansoor L. Limba on March 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Islamic, Un-Islamic, or Islamist?

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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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