Posts Tagged With: philippines

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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China Visit as Bandwagoning?

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MINDAVIEWS > MARGINALIA: China visit as bandwagoning?

Mansoor L. Limba on October 16, 2016

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /16 October) – Yesterday morning, apart from sitting as a mentor to a thesis about faith-based diplomacy, I was also invited as a panelist to a thesis defense about ‘strategic bandwagoning’ in International Relations (IR).

What is bandwagoning?

Though originally coined by Quincy Wright in his book “A Study of War” published during the Second World War (1942), the concept of bandwagoning in IR has been expounded and popularized by structural realism’s preeminent figure, Kenneth Waltz, in his influential work “Theory of International Politics” (1979).

In a self-help environment of international anarchy with no superior authority over its units (states), they seek their own preservation and survival, in the least, and global domination, at most. This is achieved either through internal balancing (in the form of enhancing economic and military prowess, for instance) or through external balancing (in the form of forging alliances).

When facing a considerable external threat, states that seek alliances may ‘balance’ or ‘bandwagon’, structural realists would inform us. Balancing means to ally with others against the prevailing threat. According to the structural realist John Mersheimer, states prefer to balance for two reasons: (1) to curb a potential hegemon before it becomes too strong, and (2) to join the weaker side to increase the likelihood that the new member will be influential within the alliance.

According to a realist prediction, states will abandon balancing and opt to bandwagon only when balancing is impossible or too difficult for them to do for one reason or another. As a strategy employed by weak states, bandwagoning is chosen when such states decide that the cost of opposing a stronger power exceeds the benefits. Thucydides’ oft-quoted dictum that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” dictates that a weaker state should align itself with a stronger enemy state because the latter can take what it wants by force anyway. To induce a weaker rival state to become an ally, the stronger state may offer various forms of enticement such as territorial gain, trade agreement, investment opportunity, infrastructure project, and military protection, among many others.

As I went home after the said thesis defense session, I passed by a newsstand and grabbed a copy of a newspaper. The said national daily carries this headline: “Broader China ties seen.” As I read the news story, I have learned that notwithstanding an ongoing dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines and China are expected to sign several cooperation agreements on trade, investment, tourism, people-to-people exchanges, and private business deals during President Duterte’s state visit to China on October 18 to 22.

It is quite revealing that during his speech in Lamitan, Basilan last week (October 10), the Commander-in-Chief told his audience of Agrarian Reform beneficiaries, thus: “May duda ako na okey tayo sa kanila. Huwag na muna natin pakialaman ‘yang Scarborough kasi hindi natin kaya. Magalit man tayo, hangin lang. (I think we are okay to them (China). Let’s not mind the Scarborough [Shoal] for a while because we are not capable. Even if we get mad, it is to no avail.)”

Do this upcoming state visit to China and pronouncement in Basilan herald a strategic shift to bandwagoning?

If they do, then Waltz would remind us that bandwagoning is not necessarily identical with ‘independent’ foreign policy, because of the issue of commitment, intention and deception on the part of the stronger power.

(Also published in http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2016/10/marginalia-china-visit-as-bandwagoning)

(Photo via Rappler.com)

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

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

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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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