Posts Tagged With: violent extremism

Rebooting on Federalism, BBL, and Violent Extremism

In the recent rebooting workshop on federalism, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and violent extremism, instead of the usual ‘what-is-and-what-is-not’ presentation, I just shared to the participants my personal observation of the ruling PDP-Laban party’s federalism movement, the current status of the BBL in the Congress, and the inclusion of preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) in the Masa Masid program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Thank you, DILG-Maguindanao Province, for the invitation and opportunity to share personal thoughts!

       

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Dear Year 2018

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/31 December) – I was about to extend my wishes for a “Happy New Year” to my friends online, but then certain things were bothering me; certain questions lingering on my mind. So, what I did instead was to scribe this personal letter to Year 2018:

Dear Year 2018,

Will you be really a ‘happy new year’? I’m asking you this rather awkward question because of the undesirable unfolding of events in the remaining days of your predecessor (2017).

After the global attention had been invariably diverted to false flag operations (activities related to terrorism and violent extremism), it is drawn back again to a main global issue – the Palestinian Question – thanks to Donald Trump’s blunder.

Will Trump triumph in pushing for his agenda of Zionization of Jerusalem?

Not to mention the internal squabble within the kingdom, will Saudi Arabia be able to rescue itself from the quagmire of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and more recently, Lebanon?

Dear Year 2018,

Now, two months have already passed since the end of the Marawi Siege. Do you think the Philippine government will be able to aptly ‘reinvent’ itself (see “Time for government’s ‘self-reinvention’?” http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-time-for-governments-…), particularly on the pressing issue of the city residents’ return, resettlement and reintegration, in accordance to the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)?

Within this year, Duterte said many times he will father the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to make sure it will come into fruition during his term, with a warning that trouble might brew if the said draft law will not be passed. (See “PPRD calls on Congress to expedite BBL,” PTV News, October 30, 2017, https://www.ptvnews.ph/prrd-calls-congress-expedite-bbl.)

Yet just two weeks ago (December 17, 2017), a perceived ‘anti-BBL’ congressman was allowed to be named as one of the three members of the subcommittee who would take the lead in ‘harmonizing’ the four BBL bills filed in Congress.

Is the fatherhood to the fetus transferred to someone who is expected to abort it?

Worse still, two days afterward (December 19), the supposed ‘father’ expressed doubt if the BBL could hurdle constitutional barriers. Was there any lawyer among the government representatives in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that could have detected these ‘unconstitutionalities’ while drafting the BBL? What was the use of the more-than-two-month time interval between the submission of BBL to its supposed ‘father’ on July 17, 2017 and its filing in Congress as a bill on September 29?

Is the original ‘gameplan’ really to subsume the BBL into the federalism track? In that case, is there any real guarantee that a BBL compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro / Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB/FAB) can be truly pursued under a federal set-up? In other words, is it reasonable to make a dress without getting first the body size of the person who is supposed to wear it?

Dear Year 2018,

As the current Philippine administration’s abstention to the UN General Assembly’s resolutions about the status of Jerusalem and the plight of the Rohingyas is widely perceived to be ‘denial of current wrongs’ and is therefore contradictory to the spirit of the 2016 presidential campaign on ‘correcting historical injustices’, will you not be just a 365-day extension of “That’s Entertainment” show in Manila-Davao theaters?

Dear Year 2018,

Exactly after 50 years, will you not be a repetition of the year 1968 when our youth would no longer listen to and follow the elders, and eventually pursue their way of expressing the inalienable right to self-determination? What will be the decision of the middle-aged like me: to cling to and always believe in the wisdom of the elders, or to join the youth in charting their own destiny?

Due to these lingering questions, I would rather seek refuge and find solace in this short supplication:

“O Transformer of the hearts and insights!

O Alternator of the nights and days!

O Changer of the conditions and states!

Change our condition with the best of conditions!”

[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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Community-based Religious Education and Preventing Violent Extremism

Parallel 1.B COMMUNITY-BASED RELIGIOUS EDUCATION ROLES AND PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: EXPERIENCE FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES

1. How is community playing role in religious education across various context?
2. How can community play bigger role in shaping religious education to prevent [and counter] violent extremism?

Parallel 2.B PROMOTING RELIGIOUS LITERACY EDUCATION

1. How important is religious literacy in our current context?
2. How can religious education increase religious literacy?

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Two Questions

During the second plenary session on “Religious Education and Violent Extremism: The Southeast Asian Context” on the second day, the four speakers from Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines endeavored to address these two guide questions: (1) What are the roles of state and community on religious education and PVE in Southeast Asia? (2) What are the differences and similarities, for example, in terms of
pedagogy and curriculum?

During the open session, somebody from the participants ventured to pose these two questions:

Question to the 3rd Speaker: Considering your proximity to Marawi City in more accurately analyzing the conditions on the ground as well as the ‘recapture’ of the city by the government troops and the deaths of Isnilon [Hapilon] and Omarkhayam [Maute], the top two leaders of the group/s that occupied Marawi on May 23, do you think we cannot expect another Marawi in the near and medium-term future? Why?

Question to the 4th Speaker: You have made mention of the ARMM Darul Ifta’s religious edict (fatwa) against terrorism – a courageous move which is really worthy of appreciation. But I’m just curious: Since the ‘fatwa’ was originally written and issued in Arabic language, which the overwhelming majority of the youth in the ARMM cannot understand, is it already translated into languages and vernaculars of the common people – Filipino (Tagalog), Visaya (Cebuano), M’ranao, Tausug, Maguindanaon and others?

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Why Religious Education Matters?

The first plenary session of the Regional Workshop on Violent Extremism and Religious Education in Southeast Asia which kicked off yesterday dealt with the question “Why does religious education matter for preventing violent extremism?” The speakers who dealt with the subject were a Buddhist monk directing a monastic high school in Myanmar and a member of the advisory board of an Islamic university in Indonesia.

My personal take on the issue is as follows:

Before directly answering the question of ‘why’, stating two hypotheses here is in order. First, religion can either be a bridge or a wall. Like a kitchen knife, it can be used to prepare a very delicious food and it can also be a tool to commit a heinous crime. Second, in the context of violent extremism, religion can either be a driver or a diverter.

Given these two hypotheses, it can then be stated that religious education really matter for preventing [and countering] violent extremism due to the following reasons:

1. Some violent extremist groups use religious narratives and symbols.

2. Religion can be powerful enough to stimulate people to action, for good or bad.

3. Religious education provides political authority and moral ascendancy to any ‘messenger’ of any ‘message’.

4. A ‘messenger’ of violent extremism, as in many instances, may capitalize on this religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy he/she acquires in addressing his/her audience.

5. Such a ‘messenger’ who capitalizes on religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy can only be competently combated by an alternative and superior ‘messenger’ whose political authority or moral ascendancy also emanates from the same religious education.

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Question on ‘Regional Outlook on Violent Extremism’

“We have been talking about the narrative and drivers of violent extremism (VE). When we say drivers, we are referring to the push and pull factors that ‘recruit’ individuals to VE. And we tend to pay less attention to VE’s enablers – that is, factors that make VE and its activities ‘resilient’. We are interested to know what UNDP has done so far – from development work perspective – in addressing these ‘enablers’ of VE.”

Supposed question on the Introductory Session about “Regional Outlook on Violent Extremism” by Phil Matsheza, Regional Team Leader, Governance & Peacebuilding, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

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‘Conference Paper Presentation 101’ and ‘Conference Panel Moderating 101’?

Before attending a regional workshop on religious education in Jakarta next week, my past two weeks were a series of paper presentations or talks. In a DILG-PPSC jointly organized national training of trainers on preventing and countering violent extremism held in Manila on November 27-29, I was asked to share my working paper on deconstructing media reporting in Mindanao.

Immediately after the closing program I rushed to the airport to catch my 9:40 pm flight bound for Davao City. But sad to note, I arrived at NAIA at 10:09 pm already. Blame it to the traffic jam in the Metro. I booked for the next available flight (around 6 am), but I had to enlist my name as chance passenger for the earliest flight (4 am) that day (November 30) in order to arrive in the next conference venue before the start of the panel session (8 am) where I was invited to talk about the post-Marawi Siege landscape.

The following day (December 1), I had to leave the beach resort (Waterfront Insular Hotel) and climbed up the mountainous part of the city (Malagos Garden Resort) to deliver another talk at the seminar-workshop dubbed “Reporting Marawi, Reporting Violent Extremism” organized by the MindaNews and an institute of Mindanao-based journalists.

Two days afterward, I had to fly back to Manila to moderate the panel on youth radicalization and violent extremism of a forum on the peace process in Mindanao, organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Immediately after lunch, I had to rush to the province of Cavite, outside Metro Manila, to share my thoughts on cultural sensitivity and media reporting in Mindanao at a one-week special course conducted by a national public safety institution.

         

The next day, I flew to Kuala Lumpur to attend the 7th International Conference on Southeast Asia at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya, and to present a paper on Marawi Siege’s security implications to the Southeast Asian region. During the opening ceremony the other day, the convener of the panel on the role of women in conflict zones in Southeast Asia invited me to join her panel, which I gladly accepted, and I talked about the role of women in promoting violent extremism in the Philippines.

     

In all these presentations as well as in previous experiences in conferences, one recurring thing I have observed time and again is the dismal failure of a considerable number of speakers to observe the time limit (usually 15 to 20 minutes), and correspondingly, some moderators’ ineptitude to properly manage the time limit set for each panel. One moderator even emailed me the night before the panel session, asking me to limit my presentation to 10 minutes, while actually allowing my co-presenter in the panel to talk for around 45 minutes and another co-presenter to talk in half an hour.

One panel convener kept reminding me four times to limit my talk to 15 minutes “in order to devote more time to the discussions during the Q&A session”. Yet the same panel convener was around 30 minutes late in the panel, and having designated herself as the first presenter, she had two minutes excess to the 15-minute time limit she herself had set.

In view of these and similar experiences in the remote past, I’m just wondering if there’s a need for a sort of “conference paper presentation 101” and “conference panel moderation 101.”

Please let me know your views and comments.

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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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Is ‘Terror’ Marawi’s Single Story?

IS ‘TERROR’ MARAWI’S SINGLE STORY?
By Mansoor L. Limba – July 3, 2017

(The following is a modified transcript of the 20-minute presentation of a working paper “The Marawi Crisis: A Derridean Reading” at the Forum “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives,” organized by the Social Sciences and Education Cluster at Ateneo de Davao University, June 30, 2017.)

My esteemed co-panelists – Sir Dennis [Coronel, MA] and Ma’am Diana [Taganas, CPA, MA] – Ma’am Carmen [Sabino, RP, RPm] and her team of young and energetic organizers, my fellow students, and other members of the academe who are present in this forum: Good afternoon and “salamun ‘alaykum” (may peace be upon you)!

At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers for giving me this rare opportunity to share my thoughts and views on the current crisis in Marawi.

Let me begin by narrating my favorite introductory anecdote in this regard. In a peace-building symposium-workshop last year, there was a casual conversation between (1) a Muslim NGO worker and (2) a Mindanao-based non-Muslim journalist.

This conversation suddenly turned into a heated argumentation over the ‘correct’ description for such groups as the Abu Sayyaf and others. The Muslim NGO worker argued that they are ‘un-Islamic’ because “what they are doing are against the teachings of Islam!” The non-Muslim journalist countered by saying that they are ‘Islamic’ because “They use Islamic symbols, metaphors and justifications in their acts of violence!”

That heated argumentation, actually, calls to mind postmodernism’s recurring themes, one of which is Jacques Derrida’s ‘grammatology’ or semiotic analysis given in his writings. According to this prominent postmodernist, textual is the way in which the social world is constructed, and interpreting the world reflects “the textual interplay at work,” or the concepts and structures of language.

According to Derrida, there are two ways of exposing textual interplays, viz. (1) deconstruction and (2) double reading (Derrida, “Of Grammatology,” 1976). By ‘deconstruction, he refers to a means of showing how all theories and discourses rely on artificial stabilities produced by the use of seemingly objective and natural oppositions in language – for example, light/darkness, knowledge/ignorance, white/black, friend/enemy.

In a bid to demonstrate how these stabilizations operate, Derrida subjects the text to double reading: (1) a repetition of the dominant reading to show how it achieves its outward coherence and (2) the demonstration of the internal tensions within a text that result from the use of ostensibly natural stabilizations. In doing so, Derrida’s aim is not to come to a ‘correct’ or even ‘one’ reading of a text, but to show how there is always more than one reading of any text.

Statement of the Problem

Taking postmodernist Derrida’s ‘grammatology’ or semiotic analysis as the theoretical framework, this brief presentation, which hopefully will become a working paper, shall explore the textual interplay at work in this forum’s framing of words (i.e. ‘extremism,’ ‘religious extremism,’ and ‘terror’) about the Marawi Crisis. Using Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ tools, in this brief presentation I shall scrutinize these three terms, viz. (1) extremism, (2) religious extremism, and (3) terror in Marawi.

Case 1: ‘Extremism’

It is mentioned in the invitation letter that there shall be a forum on “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives.” It is also stated thus, “…the SSE Cluster is inviting you to be one of its key speakers to discuss religious extremism” (emphasis added). One implication that can be inferred here is that the ‘terror’ in Marawi is a product of ‘religious extremism’.

In Countering/Preventing Violent Extremism (CVE/PVE) trainings and workshops, the first session is usually allotted to conceptual clarification, and the first question being posed always is something like this: Is to be ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ necessarily bad and, therefore, condemnable?

Basically, we define ‘radical’ to be the one that advocates fundamental and/or drastic change. When we say ‘extremist’ we usually refer to someone that holds a view or displays a behavior or action different from the ‘usual’. Consciously or unconsciously, whenever we say ‘extremist’ we are imagining in our mind a spectrum having two ends which are the ‘extreme’ parts while its middle is what we imagine to be the norm or ‘normal’ as adopted by the majority.

George Washington was definitely a radical during the American War of Independence, because instead of maintaining America under the British Empire, he was opting for American independence! Andres Bonifacio was a certified extremist, because instead of just reform under Spanish sovereignty, he was fighting for separation from Spain! Nelson Mandela was a convicted terrorist for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and because of this heinous crime, he was imprisoned for almost three decades!

By the way, how about the young Jewish man who had the audacity to turn upside down the money changers’ table in the Temple of Solomon? (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47; John 2:13-16) He would also address his fellow Jews as “You serpents, generation of vipers!” and “a wicked and adulterous generation!” (Matthew 23:33; 16:4) He must be an extremist during his time!

As you see, knowing the context of such terms as ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’ is very important.

Case 2: ‘Religious Extremism’

Let us equally pose this fundamental question: Is ‘religious extremism’ necessarily bad, and thus, blameworthy?

How about the case of one who voluntarily makes the ‘vow of celibacy and poverty’ to become a nun or priest? Accordingly, he or she makes this decision as a religious ‘calling’. How about the case of a teetotaler who totally abstains from alcohol, on account of religious conviction? How about the case of a non-smoker in a country or city of smokers, who refrains from smoking due to a religious reason?

Is their ‘religious extremism’ necessarily bad?

It’s not, of course, because there is a missing element here, namely, violent imposition or compulsion. If a would-be nun voluntarily makes a vow of celibacy and poverty, it’s just okay. It will not be okay if she begins to impose celibacy upon all women by force. If a person does not drink alcohol, it’s just okay. He will become questionable when he starts forcing the hook, line and sinker of his teetotalism down the throat of the people around him. If the would-be nun and the teetotaler do so, they may be accused of violent extremism in the name of, or under the guise of, religion.

Case 3: ‘Terror’ in Marawi

Let us now consider the third and last case – ‘terror’ in Marawi.

The title of this forum is “Terror in Marawi: Looking through Different Perspectives.” As I read this title for the first time, my take – correctly or not – was that it is like saying, “Let’s talk about toothpaste from different perspectives, but let’s just talk about Colgate!” That is to say, “Let’s come to talk about Marawi Crisis from diverse views and opinions, but let’s just talk about its ‘terror’ dimension!”

The fact is that the Marawi Crisis is a multi-dimensional issue, and ‘terror’ is just one of the many dimensions of the Crisis.

Aside from its ‘terror’ dimension, how about (1) the historical context, in particular the Philippine government’s failure to fully implement the peace agreements it has signed for decades? How about (2) the Philippine military intelligence’s success or failure? (As can be recalled, during the first day of the Marawi siege, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told us that there was no failure of military intelligence because there were already such reports of the siege, but what was lacking was ‘appreciation’ of those reports. Perhaps the Secretary fails to realize that the public knows that intelligence report without proper appreciation of it is no ‘intelligence’ at all. It’s just a wanton stockpiling of tons and tons of raw materials and information data!)

How about (3) the role of LGU’s peace and order councils in preventing the siege, in particular that of the BPATs (Barangay Peace Action Teams) in all barangays of the occupied business district of the city? How about (4) the issue of alleged unholy marriage between local narco-politics and terrorism?

How about (5) the actual terror of the ‘war on terror’? (I am referring to the reports of military’s mishandling in checkpoints and lootings of properties in areas of the city they control.) How about (6) the issue of Philippine military modernization (specifically the challenge of modern urban warfare, and more serious than that, the challenge of asymmetrical warfare in the information age)? How about (7) the question of excessive use of force in the form of aerial bombardments against enemy targets? (What prevents the onset of snipers versus snipers scenario, by the way?)

How about (8) the problems related to the evacuees and internally displaced people (IDPs)? How about (9) the issue of rehabilitation, resettlement and internal migration?

And how about (10) the melodramatic accounts of survivors, sometimes risking their own lives for the sake of others with a different religious affiliation?

Undeniably, these are all Marawi stories, as well.

Summary

By scrutinizing the three terms (extremism, religious extremism, and ‘terror’ in Marawi), we can say that textual is indeed the way the social world is constructed. It is the same reason why we call part of the South China Sea as “West Philippine Sea” and the Benham Rise as the “Philippine Rise.”

As a ‘middle ground’, instead of ‘religious extremism’ an alternative term is ‘violent extremism (in the name of, or under the guise of, religion). And an alternative title that can be considered for this forum is: “The Marawi Crisis: Looking through Different Perspectives.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, the universe is not a monopoly of binary equations. The world – the Marawi Crisis included – is not always a case of “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Zero-sum is not always the game in town. In the Derridean jargon, there is always a multiple reading of a text.

To take ‘terror’ as Marawi’s single story is no doubt a dangerous game to play.

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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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