Posts Tagged With: maute group

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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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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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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