By Sayyid Aref Ali Nayed

The Letter, “Common Word between Us and You” requires a fresh “compassion architecture” that is constructive, mending and healing the often broken relationships between and among believers.. Such compassion architecture can only be communal and cooperative. All religious, spiritual and philosophical communities, Muslims included, must contribute to it.

Compassion architecture is built on the theological fact that true security can only come from God’s own compassion towards humanity and the compassion of humans towards humans. Compassion is the condition of possibility of true security.

A Common Word, which was launched in October 2007, is an important contribution to alternative compassion architecture. Its signatories, whose number has since grown to over 500, include Muslim scholars and thinkers of all theological schools, both genders, all ages and occupations.

The response from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians has been very positive and several constructive conferences have already been held with them to explore our common ground. Some Jewish scholars have also made positive and encouraging comments and they will be addressed in a similar document.

For example, Muslim scholars met evangelical Christian leaders at a conference (2008) at Yale University, for many the first time either had sat down to discuss faith with the other. It was a transformative event. The dark and twisted images Muslims and evangelicals often had of each other came tumbling down. A door for compassionate cooperation opened.

November 2008, a Common Word delegation of two dozen Muslim scholars, led by Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and held three days of talks with leading Catholic scholars there. The encounter was soothing and healing after the wounds of the pope’s speech in Regensburg in 2006.

In October 2008, one of Islam’s top Muslim television preachers, Amr Khaled, toured several Muslim countries including Sudan to rally tens of thousands of young people around the theme of A Common Word. The response proved overwhelmingly positive.

Initiatives such as A Common Word are giving rise to a “network of networks of compassion” with multiple nodes and growing complexity and interconnectivity. Much like the internet, this network of networks does not depend on any one node. It is robust and resilient precisely because it is so widespread and interconnected. Compassion architecture will rise from a wide variety of initiatives such as A Common Word coming together.

In a ‘stuck’ or ‘jammed’ world situation, A Common World hits the reset button with fresh and purified presuppositions. Now, we watch the lights come on in a fresh way, a way that may very well get our world going again. What better presuppositions to start with than Love of God and Love of Neighbor?
Change requires a shift from self-righteous arrogance to attitudes of humility, concern for others, brokenness-before-God, compassion and understanding.
What humanity needs most today is a prophetic teaching of compassion and love. Inherent in A Common Word is a lofty, scriptures-based exhortation from which many lessons, sermons and much guidance can flow.

Today we are all frightened, in one way or another, physically, politically, socially, and economically. For too many years, fear ran our lives both as actors and acted-upon. In an age of extremism and terrorism, the generals and security agencies thrive on offering their “Security Architectures”. It is time for true change: change from fear to hope, from hate to love, from madness to sanity and from cruelty to compassion. The new day is indeed luminescent with rays of hope!

God knows best!

Renewing Islam

Renewing Islam
In Europe we often think that within Islam there is no debate on the Holy Scriptures. However, the debate does exists, and often features strong tones leading also to controversy, as in this article from al-Safir, a leftist newspaper, whose tone is definitely very hard and accusatory. How to interpret the Qur’an in light of the context in which Muslims live today?
Habib Fayad* | 28 December 2016

Al-Safir, November 21, 2016

In today’s world it is rare to find a more backward community than the Muslim community. The “best community ever raised among men” (cfr. Cor. 3,110) ended on the day of Prophet Muhammad’s death and probably the Qur’anic discourse on the “best community” is specific to Muslims in the era of the Prophet without including those who would come after them. Otherwise, the evil that for hundreds of years has affected Muslims, their backwardness as well as their current division, all the way up to ISIS, the last of their productions and their crowning glory, would remain unexplained.

It is useless to separate Islam from its followers in order to forgive the former from the backwardness of the latter and its crimes. The problem of Muslim backwardness cannot be resolved by creating a distinction between Islam as a civilized religion in theory and the Muslim people as its applicative tool of distortion. In fact, there are distorted forms of Islam that many Muslims make their own and apply fully. [In these cases] renouncing Islam and leaving it alone is much better than distorting it or shooting it down through an attachment to it. The problem is not so that Muslims have strayed away from their religion as much as the fact that they misunderstand it and apply its teachings in distorted ways, thus transforming it, in such conditions, in fossilized beliefs and unchanging and destructive ritual practices.

If the Prophet Muhammad had come in our time, for instance, would he have ordered to cut off the hands of thieves rather than put them in jail? The hadīths state that the much awaited Mahdi,1 at the end of time, will bring a new religion. This vision is in tune with the “novelty”, understood as the dominant character in the era of globalization and modernity. Religion is the revelation of the context, of the diagnostic diseases of such context and it proposes the appropriate cures. Religious teachings do not change their spirit and goals (maqāsid), but with the change of era their standards and instruments may vary. The new religion is essential to ensure that modern man and the new worlds conform to the divine teachings. Thus, Muslims need to return to understanding the religious text in light of the context in which they live, rather than evoking the historical context of the text and pushing it into the present.

Islam practiced by most Muslims suffers from a preference given to form over substance, ritual over value, matter over mind, to means over end, precept over purpose, signifier over actual meaning, the literal interpretation (tafsīr) over spiritual interpretation (ta’wīl), prince over community, class over society. Most Islamists take into consideration certain parts of the sacred text while leaving certain others out. On this regard, they act like surgeons wielding the scalpel with skill over the patient’s body, but stops short curing and eradicate the disease. The Islamists, for example, impose the law (fiqh) not taking into account ethics, where the two dimensions are closely linked in the text, and indeed the former is the premise of the latter and should be seen as its source.

In addition, the law in force in many Islamic groups continues to represent a restriction of the religious text, trapped in literal molds that inhibit the progress of humanity and its capacity to evolve; otherwise it would be hard to explain the ban on the use of banks and on music and arts, the need to destroy the idols, and the fact of considering women as ‘awra [understood as a sexual object that must be covered, Ed.].

Renewing Islam means cleansing it from prejudices, falls, myths and changes that have affected it throughout the course of history, and apply it in a manner consistent with the spirit of the time and era. It also means going back to reading the religious texts with the reason, morality and spirituality of the Prophet, and not merely literally.

*A Professor at the Lebanese University, Habib Fayyad holds a doctorate in Philosophy and Islamic theology with a thesis entitled: “The Renewal of Arab Thought During the Nahda”. He is a columnist for Al-Safir, a Lebanese leftist newspaper.

1 The eschatological Savior, whose wait for is particularly alive in the Shi‘ite world (Ed.)

[This article was translated from the original Arabic]

The Resistance of Christianity in its Homeland…?

The Resistance of Christianity in its Homelands (Chrétien d’Orient. Résister sur notre terre)

Author: Pascal Gollnisch

Editor: Cherche Midi

Martino Diez | 26 July 2016

“By talking and talking about these suffering people, we risk making them an abstract reality” (p. 117). This profoundly true observation is by Monsignor Pascal Gollnisch, who since 2010 has been the general director of the Œuvre d’Orient, an important charity supporting Eastern Christians. 

The Œuvre was born in France in 1856 and today it promotes more than 1,000 projects in the whole region. As a counterbalance to the risk of abstraction, this short book “seeks to be more of a testament and a personal reflection than an expert analysis” (p. 9). 

A testimony, however, that counts on thousands of kilometers clocked up in the Middle East, since the years of seminary training, and an uninterrupted series of meetings with Church leaders and politicians as well as with many ordinary people, like the refugees from Iraqi Kurdistan, whose dramatic stories open the book.

As is well known, the history of eastern churches is complex: there are seven Catholic rites in the region, not to mention the other confessions. 

Compared to many superficial explanations circulating in the media, the first part of the volume clearly explains the root of the divisions that brought about these churches and the main points of the theological debate, while a useful appendix provides a brief profile of each eastern catholic church, with their reference in France. 

The only reservation concerns the clear taking of distance from the “later waves of European missionaries sent by the Latin Church of Rome” (p. 26) and from the West, “conquering and Latin” (p. 21). While the reasons for this criticism are perfectly understandable, it is fair to remind that if the theological and liturgical heritage of these churches has not been lost, it is owed also to the work of many Latin missionaries who over the centuries have generously dedicated themselves in the service of these communities.

The author emphasizes the basic choice of Easter Christians in favor of non-violence, especially in the ongoing conflicts, and the radical objection it raises against the logics of power and hegemony that are bringing Middle Eastern societies on the brink of collapse. And here the author, to escape any shadow of intellectualism, recalls some recent instances of martyrdom, among which the attack on the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Baghdad in 2010, a sinister omen of what would take place in Iraq soon thereafter.
This is not to say that Eastern Christian communities have no right to defend themselves when they are threatened with extermination. The testimony, given in full, by Monsignor Hindo, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Al-Hasakah and Nusaybin, illustrates how precarious the situation is in the Christian villages of northeastern Syria, caught between the threat of ISIS, the ambitions of the Kurdish militias and the substantial disinterest of the Syrian regime which, like the international community, until recently had priorities other than the control of these peripheral regions. 

Without hiding behind circumlocutions, the author openly calls for an international military intervention to save what can be saved. He is nonetheless well aware that the true solution will consist in offering a credible prospective to the Sunni community, in Iraq as well as in Syria, and in the promotion of a culture of rights. Thus distancing himself from many of his Eastern friends, Mgrs. Gollnisch is in fact convinced that the great liberal principles (separation of powers, the rule of law, and a form of separation between religion and politics, whatever name it can take) have something to say to these countries and their majority-Muslim societies. 

Indeed, they have already begun to exert a certain attraction on them: “If I strongly believe that coexistence is possible […] it is because it seems like a sizeable portion of the Middle East’s Muslim population does not want to hear about Daesh or al-Qaida” (p. 136).

But next to the Eastern Christians, in the book there is a second focal point: we Europeans. “It would be tragic to believe for a second that the fate of the Middle East is not directly linked to ours” (p. 19). 

The stakes are crucial: demonstrating that Christians and Muslims can still live together. If they cannot manage to do so in the Middle East, where they share the same language and the same culture, how could they in the West? 

Yet this dimension of the problem is rarely considered. “France – though the question could be applied, in varying degrees, to other European countries – has an unhealthy relationship with religions. So long as it refuses to grant them a legitimate place in the context of citizenship, it will remain unable to understand these populations who flock towards us and who question our societies” (p. 116). 

Acting, today not tomorrow, so that the experience of religious pluralism in the Middle East does not get completely erased, by maintaining channels of dialogue and at the same time preserving the links between the diaspora and the original communities, means building a better future for our European societies too.



There seems to be a growing clamor for death penalty, particularly in the Lower House of Congress… The members of Congress should NOT re-impose Death Penalty!

Today, there is considerable rather a growth of world sensitivity with regard to rejection of death penalty. There is growing awareness that the death penalty is not a short cut of which the state avails compared to its primary responsibility to protect the life of the citizens. With the existence of certain social problems that are not faced and will not be faced, the death penalty is NOT a deterrent for crime. In fact, the death penalty is being seen as discriminatory against the poor, social, ethnic and religious minorities and political adversaries.

There is a growing rejection of the death penalty worldwide. First, this growing movement of awareness at times horrified by the number of judicial errors and executions, at other times by the fact that a death sentence always adds another death and more victims – including the family members of the condemned persons – to the victims of the crimes already committed.

No doubt, death penalty supports a culture of death. While it claims to protect life and counter crime, it, actually, promotes a culture of death that is legitimated at the highest level of the state and involves the whole of civil society and in the end is, in substance, state revenge, when alternative measures exist. The death penalty only feeds feelings of revenge.

Second, we deal NOT with the legal aspect, but simply underline the necessity to promote a culture of life.

On 27 January 1999 St. Pope John Paul II said: “New evangelisation calls on Christ’s disciples to be unconditionally pro life. Modern society has the means to protect itself without denying criminals the opportunity to redeem themselves. The death penalty is cruel and unnecessary and this is true even for someone who has done something very wrong”.

The use of the death penalty ought to be abandoned not only for what it does to those who are executed but for what it does to all of society.

In 2007, 128 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, whereas 69 countries still maintain capital punishment in force, but executions are carried out only in very few countries.

The Second optional Protocol of the International Pact on Civil and Human Rights

Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation in 1989, it calls for total abolition of the death penalty by partaking states, while allowing it to be maintained in times of war in states that make a special reserve at the moment of ratification.

The Philippines under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, ratified this protocol that establishes the abolition of capital punishment. The abolition of death penalty in the country is actually her legacy.

Partaker countries:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Djibouti, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Holland, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Czech Republic, Republic Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, East Timor, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Hungary, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Countries that have signed but not ratified:

Argentina, Chile, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Nicaragua, Poland, Sao Tome and Principe.

Members of Congress, HEED the cry of the poor and listen to the appeal of the entire Humanity to abolish for good the abolition if death penalty in our land!


Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
Cotabato City

February 9, 2017

“The Separation of Church and State”

“The Separation of Church and State”

People now begin invoking the Constitutional provision on the Separation of Church and State, especially when they hear priests, pastors Bishops and ‘Ulama speaking against arbitrary or summary killings of suspected drug users and pushers. Soon this would be exacerbated by the debates on the attempts to restore death penalty. Then, we shall write a new Federal Constitution.

In all our Constitutions, the ticklish and often controversial issue of separation of Church and State is least understood not only by lay people but also lawyers. Often people discuss and debate this provision without knowing the background and/or the jurisprudence on the matter. Our 4 Constitutions (the 1935 Constitution under the American Tutelage, the Japanese Time Constitution, the 1973 Marcos Constitution and the 1987 Cory Aquino Constitution) with slight differences and nuances have grappled with the issue yet the issue continues to be misunderstood, especially when religious people or the clergy make social and/or political pronouncements.

The 1935 Constitution in Article Three defines the Bill of Rights and included in the enumeration is the people’s rights to religion.

Art. III, Sec. 1.7 speaks thus: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights”.

And Article Six further established standards of government spending in regards to supporting any religious establishments:

Art. VI, Sec. 23.3 says thus: “No public money, or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution or system of religion, for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, ministers, or other religious teacher or dignitary as such except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, orphanage or leprosarium”.

These decrees establish freedom of religion without required worship or commitment of any kind. They also establish separation of church and state by forbidding any admittance of religious affiliation when initiated into political employment. This echoes the Constitution of the United States in the attempt to create a democratic nation.

In 1945, during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, an alternate constitution was written. The portion from Article Six replaced the reference in Article Three of the 1935 Constitution. In Article Seven pertaining to the Duties and Rights of the Citizen, the following statement was made:
Art. VII, Sec. 3 speaks thus: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights”.

This decree does not suggest that there will be no future implications hindering the freedom of religion or any discrimination based on choice of religion. At this stage, the nation retreated one step in the free exercise of religion.
During the reign of President Ferdinand Marcos, Martial Law was established in 1972 and subsequently a new constitution was drafted the following year. In the 1973 Constitution, the reference to religion as found in Article three of the 1935 Constitution was restored. The second reference that was maintained in the 1945 Constitution also remained effective in law.

In drafting the Constitution of 1987 that is still in use today, the statement involving religion as found in Article Six of the 1935 Constitution was subtly altered. The original statement was as follows:

“No public money, or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution or system of religion”.

The revision to this portion was made to be the following:
“No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly,
for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion”.
 ( Note: the word ‘used’ is omitted)

There are two major practices of the ‘separation of Church and State’ based on our jurisprudence (Philippine and American Jurisprudence). The first is the so-called ‘non-establishment clause” that means the State shall pass “no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights”.

And second is on the use of funds or property to wit: “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly,
for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion”.

Other than these two jurisprudence on the matter, religious, clergymen, pastors and ‘ulama are guaranteed all rights provided in the Bill of Rights of every citizens. It is GROSS ignorance of Law to invoke the Constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State when priests or bishops or ‘Ulama speak against summary execution and/or death penalty. Being clergymen and ‘Ulama does NOT diminish their full Bill of Rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Little knowledge is, indeed, VERY DANGEROUS!


Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun” Mercado, OMI
Professor – Notre Dame University Graduate School
Professor – San Beda Graduate School of Laws

CBCP Pastoral Letter on Amending the Constitution

CBCP Pastoral Letter on Amending the Constitution

Dear Catholic Faithful,

We write this pastoral letter to you with an eye to our celebration of the 500th year of the coming of Christianity to our shores. By 2021 the Christian faith shall have arrived in our shores for half a millennium already. For a long time we have been the only Asian country with a Christian majority. And even today we can thankfully say that we are the Asian country with the biggest Christian population. As we prepare for this great milestone in our history, it is but right that we examine how deeply we have lived up to our Christian name.
During the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila in 1937, our faith was described in the official hymn of the Congress in this way:

La fe de Filipinas The faith of the Philippines
Es como el sol ardiente, Is like the blazing sun,
Como la roca firme Is strong as a rock,
Inmensa como el mar. Immense like the sea.
La iniquidad no puede Iniquity cannot lord
Ser de estas islas duena. It over these islands.

More recently, we your bishops discerned that the top pastoral priority for the Church in the Philippines is integral faith formation. (cf. “Behold I Make All Things New”, 2001). While acknowledging that the faith of our people is simple and strong, we nevertheless lamented the ignorance of our people regarding the truths of our faith, and the lack of coherence between the faith we profess and our personal and societal lives. (cf. Live Christ, Share Christ, 2012). We also expressed our considered opinion that the way politics as it was presently practiced in our country is perhaps the single greatest obstacle to our integral development as a nation. (cf. Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics, 1997) But the corruption of our politics cannot be isolated from corruption in our economic life, in our culture, and in the practice of our religion itself.
The bitter fruit of all these is widespread poverty, violence and a cultural degeneration whose end result is the absence of genuine peace.

No wonder people have been longing and clamoring for change. We are today indeed experiencing change, but it is highly questionable whether this change is for the better or for the worse.

One of the major steps proposed to bring about change for the better is the amendment of our 1987 Constitution. This is a major step which poses a challenge to every Filipino citizen, and hence, to every Filipino Catholic.

We write to you not to endorse or disapprove moves to amend the 1987 Constitution but to offer pastoral guidance on whatever decision that may be taken on this matter.

Our Lord Jesus Christ called his followers the “salt of the earth and the light of the world.” (Mt. 5:13-14). He made it clear that his disciples should not abandon the world to its own devices. While they did not belong to the world, and should not conform themselves to this age (Roman 12:2), the followers of Christ were being sent into the world to penetrate it with the values of the Gospel, so that the Kingdom of God might come to the world and transform it.

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (1991) set as one of the purposes of the new evangelization the transformation of society in which all Catholics are called to be involved. Every Christian is commissioned by the Lord Jesus not only to profess the Christian faith but to make it bear on our world which needs sorely the light of Christ. Every Catholic and all of us together, are called to bear witness to Christ by our lives, our words and by our actions which reflect and convey the love and mercy of Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy. The Second Vatican Council has gone to the extent of warning: “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties neglects his duties towards his neighbor and even God and jeopardizes his eternal salvation” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 43).

Hence we call on you, to participate in the political processes of our country, and today, especially in the process of amending our 1987 Constitution. The process of amending the Constitution should not be left to politicians or to those who either by election or appointment will be tasked to draft the amendments. For the Constitution is not only a piece of paper, even though some who would disregard its provisions may claim that it is only that. The Constitution is the single most important document of our country. The Filipino people are the author of this document. Those who are tasked to draft it or to amend it are not its authors but the instruments of the sovereign Filipino people. It becomes the Constitution or a valid amendment only upon approval by the people.

But while the people’s approval of the Constitution or amendments thereof is our final act of owning it, we must be vigilant and watch over, and even suggest ideas and formulations that enter into the Constitution. We have to make sure that the resulting document embodies “our rights, our ideals, our aspirations, and our dreams” (Commissioner Jose Nolledo).

We want to tell you that the CBCP supported the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, while acknowledging its imperfections. The bishops collectively said then, “We have come to the conclusion that the provisions of the new draft Constitution are consistent with the teaching of the Gospel.” They added, “We believe that this new Constitution will provide firm basis for governance, a clear direction for national renewal and development, and a covenant towards peace.” (Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, CBCP President, A Covenant Towards Peace: A Pastoral Letter on the Ratification of the 1986 Constitution of the Philippines, November 21, 1986).

We urge you to get involved in the process of amending the Constitution so that all its provisions will be consistent with the Gospel, and the gains of the 1987 Constitution will be preserved and enhanced, instead of being removed.
We urge you in a very special way to be vigilant that our Constitution will continue to assert that “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” (Art. II, sec. 1). Let us continue to insist that “Public office is a public trust. All public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives” (Art. XI, sec. 1). Let us not allow any public official to act as if he is the master of the people, for a person is elected or appointed to public office to be a servant of the people.

Let us make sure that the Constitution continues to uphold this fundamental principle: “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights” (Art. II, Sec. 11). Let us ensure that provisions of our Bill of Rights are preserved, especially Art. III, Sec. 1: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Let us especially safeguard the 1987 Constitution’s declaration that “The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the unborn from conception (Art. II, Sec. 12). And let us continue to maintain the safeguards against dictatorial martial rule that our present constitution contains (Art. VIII, Sec. 18).

The gains enshrined in Article XV, on The Family, as well as the State Policy which says, “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution” (Art. II, Sec. 12) should be safeguarded by us, as also the provision which mandates that upon request of the parents or guardians, optional religious instruction to children in the public schools must be provided by teachers designated by the religious authorities of the religion to which the children or wards belong (Art. XIV, Sec. 3, no. 3). Likewise very important is the prohibition of the death penalty, which we advocate to be made absolute (Art. III, Sec. 19, no. 1).

We cannot cite here all the provisions that we should be vigilant about. There is the big issue of federalism which we must all study. The clamor by many for it stems from the dissatisfaction of many people with the lack of equitable distribution of benefits, power and financial resources in our present unitary system. Do we need to change from our present unitary system to a federal system of government? Or will it suffice to introduce amendments and laws which will make the present unitary system responsive to the needs of disadvantaged regions?

Keep in mind that the drafting of a Constitution and amendments to it should concern all of us. And our overriding concern should be that the provisions of the Constitution and all amendments to be incorporated should be consistent with the Gospel and promote the common good. Such concern is our right and duty as Filipinos as well as followers of Jesus Christ who wants for us all peace and life in abundance.

Let us not fail our country. Even more importantly, let us not fail our Lord Jesus Christ. We, your pastors, on our part commit ourselves to the huge task of helping our people know our Constitution and the faith issues connected with it.
Let us, by our active involvement in the political life of our country and in the work of amending our Constitution prepare a people who do honor by their personal and societal livings to the Lord and to our Christian faith, come 2021, the 500th year of the coming of the Christian faith and of the holy Mass to our shores. Let us above all remember that no change in our Constitution will help us if we do not have a change of heart, soul and behavior.

May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, intercede for her people who call themselves, “pueblo amante de Maria” (a people in love with Mary).

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, January 30, 2017

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

The Conflict of Interpretation

The Conflict of Interpretations

“It’s Voltaire’s fault. It’s Rousseau’s fault,” sang Gavroche, the street urchin in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. In an era when the great narratives are over and “jihad is the only cause on the market,”1 one is more likely to hear that it is the Qur’an’s fault.

Michele Brignone | 29 July 2016

Sectarian violence, international terrorism and the persecution of minorities: for some, all this would be ascribable to the letter of Islam’s sacred text. And Islamic State2 would only seem to confirm this thesis, what with its propaganda stuffed with references to “the word of God” or the sayings of the Prophet.

Controversial talk, and not without an intended polemical side. We have decided to reckon with it, all the same, by dedicating this edition of Oasis to, precisely, the Qur’an. However, rather than tackling, head on, the subject of the relationship between religion and violence (already covered in a previous number3) or limiting ourselves to “static” observations on the Text’s contents, we preferred to ask ourselves about the “dynamic” driving the relationship between Muslims and their Scriptures and, thus, the ways in which they read them and have read them over the centuries.

It is not our aim to pronounce verdicts of guilt or innocence. We are aware, moreover, that the issue of fundamentalist violence cannot be reduced to a matter of textual content but is, rather, interwoven with social, political and economic factors. If we have taken this reflection further, it is partly because certain questions are surfacing within Muslim societies, first and foremost. For example, in a document dating to January 2015, a group of important secularist intellectual “from the Muslim world” wrote, “The world is living a war sparked by individuals and groups who refer to Islam… Nowadays, the right way to respond to this war is not to say that that is not Islam, because it is precisely in the name of a certain understanding of Islam that those acts are being committed. No, the right way to respond consists in recognising and asserting the historical context and inapplicability of a certain number of texts that are part of the Muslim tradition. And drawing the appropriate conclusions.”4

It is in this same perspective that Abdullah Saeed begins our opening article: in his view, a contextual approach to the Qur’an offers a more appropriate interpretation of the verses posing particular problems of application today. It would be reductive to limit the problem of interpretation to the tension between past and present, however. As Mohammad Benkheira documents, from Islam’s dawning, “the objective of a Qur’anic commentary [has] not [been] so much to explain the Qur’an as to permit a generation in a specific region to take possession of its interpretation.” And the interpretations do not vary only according to place and time, but also by virtue of the diversity within Islam. Thus Shi‘ism – about whose hermeneutic vocation Mathieu Terrier writes – stands out for the role it accords the imam: he is the only one who can make an otherwise mute Text “talk.” In a Sunni context, on the other hand, it is primarily Sufism that gives life to a long tradition of spiritual interpretation: a subject explored in depth by Denis Gril.

Then there are the fundamentalist readings. As Michel Cuypers writes, these are fuelled by a literalist reading of the text that plays, in its turn, on the abrogation theory, according to which the Qur’an’s most conciliatory verses would have been abrogated by other, later, more intransigent ones. However, a more accurate analysis of the Qur’anic passages on which such a theory is based demonstrates that it is actually quite unfounded. Joas Wagemakers also writes about fundamentalist interpretations, specifically the jihadi-salafi ones. He analyses two different explanations of two Qur’anic verses used by Islamic State to justify the beheading of the American journalist, James Foley.

Thus it emerges that, “that Salafis and their readings of the sources are not as straightforward as they may seem.” Just how varied the uses and abuses of the Qur’an are is demonstrated by Chiara Pellegrino’s article on scientific exegesis, a recent discipline (producing debatable results), which seeks to highlight the correspondence between the contents of Scripture and the discoveries of science. The definition of what constitutes Islam is not played out solely at the level of the Qur’anic text, however. It also involves preservation of the memory of what the Prophet said and did, as Roberto Tottoli recalls.

We could not neglect the political question. Islamists have been asserting for decades that the duty to found a specific system of government, identified with an “Islamic state” or with a “Caliphate,” would derive from the Qur’an. Ridwan al-Sayyid states, conversely, that “most Muslims have never been subjected to the authority of a Caliph, in any era” and that “the discourse about an ‘Islamic state’ is a recent ideology.” Nevertheless, the issue is perhaps more complex and involves the paradox on which the relationship between politics and religion is founded in Islam, from the founding texts onwards. As Leila Babès explains, Islam demands the establishment of a divine order and, at the same time, devalues the power of the men who give themselves the mission of realizing it.

Faithfulness to the past or the courage to innovate; a literal exegesis or attention to context; political interpretations or spiritual readings: the tensions permeating the field of Qur’anic hermeneutics today are not, basically, that new. Nor are they resolved in the “tradition v. modernity” dialectic. It suffices to turn to the Classics section, to be sure of this. The scholar Jalāl al-Dīn Suyūtī, who, as Martino Diez writes, “perfectly encapsulates the traditional approach to the Qur’an,” claimed to be bringing about renewal and has, perhaps, been more intrepid than many of the Qur’an’s contemporary interpreters. More recently, in order to free themselves from the shackles of tradition, modern exegetes such as Muhammad Abduh, Rashīd Ridā and Sayyid Qutb, above all, have paved the way for political and even violent readings, whilst the Egyptian academic Abū Zayd was considered a revolutionary and was convicted of apostasy, even though he referred to the teaching of medieval authors.

In short, the Islamic scriptures are at the centre of a genuine conflict of interpretations that is contributing (although certainly not exclusively) to the convulsions that contemporary Islam is experiencing. That this conflict must necessarily find a fundamentalist solution is not a foregone conclusion. The case of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world and featured in Rolla Scolari’s reportage, tells us not only that the bets are still on but also that the extremist movements can be countered. By reading, for that matter, the same Qur’an that those movements claim is their inspiration.


1. The phrase is Olivier Roy’s. See, for example, Catherine Calvet and Anastasia Vécrin, “Olivier Roy: «Le jihad est aujourd’hui la seule cause sur le marché»,” Libération, 3 Octobre 2014
2. In this edition, we have used “Islamic State” to indicate the jihadist organization and “Islamic state” to indicate, more generally, the political project that aims to establish a state with a religious foundation.
3. Sacred Violence? Religions between War and Reconciliation, Oasis No.20 (2014)
4Déclaration de laïcs issus du monde islamique, 15 January 2015

Primer on al-Qaeda

Al Qa’ida – Origin and Objectives
By Prof. Eliseo Mercado, OMI

Graduate School – Notre Dame University
Graduate School of Laws – San Beda College

1. Meaning of the word

In Arabic, al-Qaeda has four syllables, and is pronounced [alˈqɑːʕɪda]. However, since two of the Arabic consonants in the name (the voiceless uvular plosive [q] and the voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ]) are not phones found in the English language, the closest naturalized English pronunciation is IPA: /ælˈkɑːiːdəә//. More commonly, /ælˈkaɪdəә/ and /ælˈkeɪdəә/ are heard. Al-Qaeda’s name can also be transliterated as al- Qaida, al-Qa’ida, el-Qaida, or al Qaeda.[24]

The name of the organization comes from the Arabic noun qā’idah, which means “foundation, basis” and can also refer to a military “base”. The initial al- is the Arabic definite article “the”, hence “the base”.

Al-Qaeda’s objectives include the end of foreign influence in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate or ISIS.

Al-Qaeda has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council,[5] the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General,[6][7] the Commission of the European Communities of the European Union,[8] the United States Department of State,[9] the Australian Government,[10] Public Safety Canada,[11] the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[12] Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook,[13] South Korean Foreign Ministry,[14] the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service,[15] the United Kingdom Home Office,[16] Russia,[17] the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs,[18] and the Swiss Government.[19]

2. Origin of the Name

What exactly al-Qaeda is, or was, remains in dispute. In the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, writer and journalist Adam Curtis contends that the idea of al- Qaeda as a formal organization is primarily an American invention. Curtis contends the name “al-Qaeda” was first brought to the attention of the public in the 2001 trial of Osama bin Laden and the four men accused of the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa. As a matter of law, the U.S. Department of Justice needed to show that Osama bin Laden was the leader of a criminal organization in order to charge him in absentia under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as the RICO statutes. The name of the organization and details of its structure were provided in the testimony of Jamal al-Fadl, who claimed to be a founding member of the organization and a former employee of Osama bin Laden.[26]

The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organization. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. He was not their commander. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term “al-Qaeda” to refer to the name of a group until after September the 11th, when he realized that this was the term the Americans had given it.[27]
In April 2002, the group assumed the name Qa’idat al-Jihad, which means “the base of Jihad”. According to Diaa Rashwan, this was “…apparently as a result of the merger of the overseas branch of Egypt’s al-Jihad (EIJ) group, led by Ayman El-Zawahiri, with the groups Bin Laden brought under his control after his return to Afghanistan in the mid- 1990s.”[38]

3. Background

3.1 Sayyid al-Qutub

The radical Islamist movement in general and al-Qaeda in particular developed during the Islamic revival and Islamist movement of the last three decades of the 20th century along with less extreme movements.
Some have argued that “without the writings” of Islamic author and thinker Sayyid Qutb “al-Qaeda would not have existed.”[39] Qutb preached that because of the lack of sharia law the Muslim world was no longer Muslim, having reverted to pre-Islamic ignorance known as jahiliyyah. To restore Islam, a vanguard movement of righteous Muslims was needed to implement Sharia and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences, such as concepts like socialism or nationalism. Enemies of Islam included “treacherous Orientalists!” [40] and “world Jewry”, who plotted “conspiracies” and “wicked[ly]” opposed Islam.

In the words of Mohammed Jamal Khalia, a close college friend of Osama bin Laden: “Islam is different from any other religion; it’s a way of life. We [Khalia and bin Laden] were trying to understand what Islam has to say about how we eat, who we marry, how we talk. We read Sayyid Qutb. He was the one who most affected our generation.[41] Qutb had an even greater influence on Osama bin Laden’s mentor and another leading member of al-Qaeda,[42] Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri’s uncle and maternal family patriarch, Mafouz Azzam, was Qutb’s student, then protégé, then personal lawyer and finally executor of his estate – one of the last people to see Qutb before his execution. “Young Ayman al-Zawahiri heard again and again from his beloved uncle Mahfouz about the purity of Qutb’s character and the torment he had endured in prison.”[43] Zawahiri paid homage to Qutb in his work Knights under the Prophet’s Banner. [44]

One of the most powerful effects of Qutb’s ideas was the idea that many who said they were Muslims were not, i.e. they were apostates. These included leaders of Muslims countries since they failed to enforce sharia law.[45]

3.2. War in Afghanistan
The origins of the group can be traced to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The United States viewed the conflict in Afghanistan, with the Afghan Marxists and allied Soviet troops on one side and the native Afghan mujahedeen on the other, as a blatant case of Soviet expansionism and aggression. The U.S. channelled funds through Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence agency to the native Afghan mujahedeen fighting the Soviet occupation in a CIA program called Operation Cyclone.[46][47]

At the same time, a growing number of foreign Arab mujahedeen (also called Afghan Arabs) joined the jihad against the Afghan Marxist regime, facilitated by international Muslim organizations, particularly the Maktab al-Khidamat,[48] whose funds came from some of the $600 million a year donated to the jihad by the Saudi Arabia government and individual Muslims – particularly wealthy Saudis who were approached by Osama bin Laden.[49]

The Afghan mujahideen of the 1980s have been alleged to be the inspiration for terrorist groups in nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Chechnya, and the former Yugoslavia.[50] According to Russian sources, the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 allegedly used a manual allegedly written by the CIA for the mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan on how to make explosives.[51]

Alleged CIA involvement
Allegations of CIA assistance to Osama bin Laden
Whether the al-Qaeda attacks are “blowback” from the American CIA’s Operation Cyclone to help the Afghan mujahideen is a matter of some debate. Robin Cook, former member of the British House of Commons and Foreign Secretary from 1997-2001, has written that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were, “a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies” and that the mujahideen that formed al-Qaeda were “originally recruited and trained with help from the CIA”.[52]
However, CNN journalist Peter Bergen, known for conducting the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, calls the idea “that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden … a folk myth. There’s no evidence of this. … Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. … The real story here is the CIA didn’t really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.”[53] Bergen and others maintain the U.S. aid was given out by the Pakistan government, that it went to Afghan not foreign mujahideen, and that there was no contact between the Afghan Arabs (foreign

mujahideen) and the CIA or other American officials, let alone, arming, training, coaching or indoctrination.
3.3. Maktab al-Khadamat
Al-Qaeda evolved from the Maktab al-Khadamat (Services Office), a Muslim organization founded in 1980 to raise and channel funds and recruit foreign mujahideen for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was founded by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a Palestinian Islamic scholar and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maktab al- Khadamat organized guest houses in Peshawar, in Pakistan, near the Afghan border, and paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan to prepare international non-Afghan recruits for the Afghan war front. Azzam persuaded Bin Laden to join MAK, to use his own money and use his connections with “the Saudi royal family and the petro-billionaires of the Gulf” to raise more to help the mujahideen.[54] The role played by MAK and foreign Muslim volunteers, or “Afghan Arabs”, in the war was not a major one. While 250,000 Afghan Mujahideen fought the Soviets and Marxist Afghan government, it is estimated that were never more than 2000 foreign mujahideen in the field at any one time.[55] Nonetheless, foreign mujahedeen volunteers came from 43 countries and the number that participated in the Afghan movement between 1982 and 1992 is reported to have been 35,000.[56]
The Soviet Union finally withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. To the surprise of many, Mohammed Najibullah’s Marxist Afghan government hung on for three more years before being overrun by elements of the mujahedeen. With mujahedeen leaders unable to agree on a structure for governance, chaos ensued, with constantly reorganizing alliances fighting for control of ill-defined territories, leaving the country devastated.
The CIA was watching Osama bin Laden at least as early as 1995, due to the discovery of the Oplan Bojinka plot, which in part involved a suicide airplane attack on CIA
Headquarters.[citation needed] 3.4. The Gulf War
Following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had put the country of Saudi Arabia and its ruling House of Saud at risk as Saudi’s most valuable oil fields (Hama) were within easy striking distance of Iraqi forces in Kuwait,[61] and Saddam’s call to pan- Arab/Islamism could potentially rally internal dissent. In the face of a seemingly massive Iraqi military presence, Saudi Arabia’s own forces were well armed but far outnumbered. Bin Laden offered the services of his mujahedeen to King Fahd to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi army. The Saudi monarch refused bin Laden’s offer, opting instead to allow U.S. and allied forces to deploy on Saudi territory[62].
The deployment angered Bin Laden, as he believed the presence of foreign troops in the “land of the two mosques” (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. After speaking publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops, he was quickly forced into exile to Sudan and on April 9, 1994 his Saudi citizenship was revoked.[63] His family publicly disowned him. There is controversy over whether and to what extent he continued to garner support from members of his family and/or the Saudi government.[64]
3.5. The Sudan Connection
From approximately 1992 to 1996, al-Qaeda and bin Laden were located in Sudan, coming at the invitation of Islamist theoritician Hassan al Turabi following an Islamist coup d’etat, and leaving after being expelled by the Sudanese government. During this time bin Laden assisted the Sudanese government, bought or set up various business enterprises, and established training camps where insurgents trained. But in Sudan bin Laden lost his Saudi passport and source of income in response to his verbal attacks on the Saudi king. [65]

Zawahiri and the EIJ, who served as the core of al-Qaeda but also engaged in separate operations against the Egyptian government, had even worse luck in Sudan. In 1993, a young schoolgirl was killed in an unsuccessful EIJ attempt on the life of the Egyptian Interior Minister, Hasan al-Alfi. Egyptian public opinion turned against Islamist bombings and [66] the police arrested 280 more of al-Jihad’s members and executed six. In 1995 an even more ill-fated attempt to assassinate Egyptian president Mubarak led to the expulsion of EIJ and not long after of bin Laden by the Sudanese government.
3.5. Back in Afghanistan
After the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan was effectively ungoverned for seven years and plagued by constant infighting between former allies and various mujahedeen groups.
Throughout the 1990s, a new force began to emerge. The origins of the Taliban (literally “students”) lay in the children of Afghanistan, many of them orphaned by the war, and many of whom had been educated in the rapidly expanding network of Islamic schools (madrassas) either in Kandahar or in the refugee camps on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
According to Ahmed Rashid, five leaders of the Taliban were graduates of a single madrassa, Darul Uloom Haqqania (also known as “the University of Jihad”,)[67] in the small town of Akora Khattak near Peshawar, situated in Pakistan but largely attended by Afghan refugees.[68] This institution reflected Salafi beliefs in its teachings, and much of its funding came from private donations from wealthy Arabs, for whom bin Laden provided conduit. A further four leading figures (including the perceived Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahed) attended a similarly funded and influenced madrassa in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Many of the mujahedeen who later joined the Taliban fought alongside Afghan warlord Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi’s Harkat i Inqilabi group at the time of the Russian invasion. This group also enjoyed the loyalty of most Afghan Arab fighters.

The continuing internecine strife between various factions, and accompanying lawlessness following the Soviet withdrawal, enabled the growing and well-disciplined Taliban to expand their control over territory in Afghanistan, and they came to establish an enclave which it called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In 1994, they captured the regional center of Kandahar, and after making rapid territorial gains thereafter, conquered the capital city Kabul in September 1996.
After Sudan made it clear that bin Laden and his group were no longer welcome that year, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — with previously established connections between the groups, a similar outlook on world affairs and largely isolated from American political influence and military power — provided a perfect location for al-Qaeda to establish its headquarters. Al-Qaeda enjoyed the Taliban’s protection and a measure of legitimacy as part of their Ministry of Defense, although only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions are alleged to have trained militant Muslims from around the world. Despite the perception of some people, al-Qaeda members are ethnically diverse and connected by their radical version of Islam.
An ever-expanding network of supporters thus enjoyed a safe haven in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan until the Taliban were defeated by a combination of local forces and United States air power in 2001 (see section September 11, attacks and the United States response). Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders are still believed to be located in areas where the population is sympathetic to the Taliban in Afghanistan or the border Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
4. The Jihad
4.1. Aden, Yemen
On December 29, 1992, al-Qaeda’s first terrorist attack took place as two bombs were detonated in Aden, Yemen. The first target was the Movenpick Hotel and the second was the parking lot of the Goldmohur Hotel. The bombings were an attempt to eliminate American soldiers on their way to Somalia to take part in the international famine relief effort, Operation Restore Hope. Internally, al-Qaeda considered the bombing a victory that frightened the Americans away, but in the United States the attack was barely noticed. No Americans were killed because the soldiers were staying in a different hotel altogether, and they went on to Somalia as scheduled. However, little noticed, the attack was pivotal as it was the beginning of al-Qaeda’s change in direction, from fighting armies to killing civilians.[69] Two people were killed in the bombing, an Australian tourist and a Yemeni hotel worker. Seven other mostly Yemenis, were severely injured.
Two fatwa are said to have been appointed by the most theologically knowledgable of al- Qaeda’s members, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, aka Abu Hajer al Iraqi, to justify the killings according to Islamic law. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim referred to the thirteenth- century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, much admired by Wahhabis. In a famous fatwa, Ibn Tamiyyah had ruled that Muslims should kill the invading Mongols, and so too Salim said al-Qaeda should kill American soldiers. The second fatwa followed another of Ibn Tamiyyah’s, that Muslims should not only kill Mongols but anyone who aided the Mongols, who bought goods from them or sold to them. In addition the killing of someone merely standing near a Mongol was justified as well. He ruled these killings just because any innocent bystander, like the Yemenite hotel worker, would find their proper reward in death, going to Paradise if they were good Muslims and to hell if they were bad.[70] This became al-Qaeda’s justification for killing civilians.[71]
4.2. First World Trade Center Attack
In 1993, Ramzi Yousef used a truck bomb to attack the World Trade Center in New York City. The attack was intended to break the foundation of Tower One knocking it into Tower Two, bringing the entire complex down. Yousef hoped this would kill 250,000 people. The towers shook and swayed but the foundation held and he succeeded in killing only six people (although he injured 1,042 others and caused nearly $300 million in property damage).[72][73][74]
After the attack, Yousef fled to Pakistan and later moved to Manila. There he began developing the Bojinka Plot plans to blow up a dozen American airliners simultaneously, to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and to crash a private plane into CIA headquarters. He was later captured in Pakistan.[75][76]
None of the U.S. government’s indictments against Osama bin Laden have suggested that he had any connection with this bombing, but Ramzi Yousef is known to have attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. After his capture, Yousef declared that his primary justification for the attack was to punish the United States for its support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and made no mention of any religious motivations.[77]
4.3. 1995-2000 Jihad Fatwas
On November 13 1995 a van containing a hundred pounds of Semtex explosive blew up near the communications center for the Saudi National Guard in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where some American military contractors and Army officers had been training the Saudi National Guard. Seven people were killed, and sixty people were injured. The Saudi government arrested four men, “torturing confessions” out of them that they had been inspired by bin Laden’s speeches and trained at al-Qaeda’s camp in Afghanistan, and quickly executed them. It is unclear if they had anything to do with the crime. As with many bombings suspected to be the work of al-Qaeda, bin Laden praised the attacks but denied authorizing the attack or training the bombers.[78]
In 1996, al-Qaeda announced its jihad to expel foreign troops and interests from what they felt were Islamic lands. Bin Laden issued a fatwa,[79] which amounted to a public declaration of war against the United States and any of its allies, and began to focus al- Qaeda’s resources towards attacking the United States and its interests. Also occurring on June 25th, 1996 was the bombing of the Khobar towers, located in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
On February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a fatwa (binding religious edict) under the banner of the World Islamic Front for Combat Against the Jews and Crusaders (al-Jabhah al-Islamiyya al-‘Alamiyya li-Qital al- Yahud wal-Salibiyyin) declaring:
[T]he ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Makka) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, ‘and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,’ and ‘fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah’.[80]
Neither bin Laden nor al-Zawahiri possessed the traditional Islamic scholarly qualifications to issue a fatwa of any kind; however, they rejected the authority of the contemporary ulema (seen as the paid servants of jahiliyya rulers) and took it upon themselves.[81] 1998 was also the year of the first major terrorist attack reliably attributed to al-Qaeda- the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, resulting in upward of 300 deaths, mostly locals. A barrage of cruise missiles launched by the U.S. military in response devastated an al-Qaeda base in Khost, Afghanistan, but the network’s capacity was unharmed.
Bin Laden then turned his sights towards the United States Navy. In October 2000, al- Qaeda militants in Yemen bombed the missile destroyer U.S.S. Cole in a suicide attack, killing 17 U.S. servicemen and damaging the vessel while it lay offshore. Inspired by the success of such a brazen attack, al-Qaeda’s command core began to prepare for an attack on the United States itself.
4.4. September 11, 2001 Attacks
The attacks were the most devastating terrorist acts in American history, killing nearly 3,000 people, destroying four commercial airliners, leveling the World Trade Center towers, and damaging The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense.
The September 11, 2001, attacks were conducted by al-Qaeda, acting in accord with the 1998 fatwa issued against the United States and its allies by military forces under the command of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others.[82] Evidence points to suicide squads led by al-Qaeda military commander Mohammed Atta as the culprits of the attacks, with bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Hambali as the key planners and part of the political and military command. Messages issued by bin Laden after
September 11, 2001 praised the attacks, and explained their motivation while denying any involvement.[83] Bin Laden legitimized the attacks by identifying grievances felt by both mainstream and Islamist Muslims, such as the general perception that the United States was actively oppressing Muslims.[84] Bin Laden asserted that America was massacring Muslims in ‘Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq’ and that Muslims should retain the ‘right to attack in reprisal’. He also claimed the 9/11 attacks were not targeted at women and children, but ‘America’s icons of military and economic power’.[85]
Evidence has since come to light that the original targets for the attack may have been nuclear power stations on the east coast of the U.S. The targets were later altered by al- Qaeda, as it was thought that the US retaliation would be too great.[86][87]
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the United States government decided to respond militarily, and began to prepare its armed forces to overthrow the Taliban regime it believed was harboring al-Qaeda. Before the United States attacked, it offered Taliban leader Mullah Omar a chance to surrender bin Laden and his top associates. The Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country for trial if the United States would provide evidence of bin Laden’s complicity in the attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush responded by saying: “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over”,[88] and British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Taliban regime: “Surrender bin Laden, or surrender power”. Soon thereafter the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and together with the Afghan Northern Alliance removed the Taliban government in the war in Afghanistan.
As a result of the United States using its special forces and providing air support for the Northern Alliance ground forces, both Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps were destroyed, and much of the operating structure of al-Qaeda is believed to have been disrupted. After being driven from their key positions in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda fighters tried to regroup in the rugged Gardez region of the nation. Again, under the cover of intense aerial bombardment, U.S. infantry and local Afghan forces attacked, shattering the al-Qaeda position and killing or capturing many of the militants. By early 2002, al-Qaeda had been dealt a serious blow to its operational capacity, and the Afghan invasion appeared an initial success. Nevertheless, a significant Taliban insurgency remains in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda’s top two leaders, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, evaded capture.
Debate raged about the exact nature of al-Qaeda’s role in the 9/11 attacks, and after the U.S. invasion began, the U.S. State Department also released a videotape showing bin Laden speaking with a small group of associates somewhere in Afghanistan shortly before the Taliban was removed from power.[89] Although its authenticity has been questioned by some,[90] the tape appears to implicate bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and was aired on many television channels all over the world, with an accompanying English translation provided by the United States Defense Department.
In September 2004, the U.S. government commission investigating the September 11 attacks officially concluded that the attacks were conceived and implemented by al Qaeda operatives.[91] In October 2004, bin Laden appeared to claim responsibility for the attacks in a videotape released through Al Jazeera, saying he was inspired by Israeli attacks on high-rises in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon: “As I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.”[92]
By the end of 2004, the U.S. government claimed that two-thirds of the top leaders of al- Qaeda from 2001 were in custody (including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Saif al Islam el Masry, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) or dead (including Mohammed Atef). Despite the capture or death of many senior al-Qaeda operatives, the U.S. government continues to warn that the organization is not yet defeated, and battles between U.S. forces and al-Qaeda-related groups continue.

“Necessity Needs No Law”.

I fully agree with my Dean, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, of the San Beda Graduate School of Laws in his retort to Bryan’s Piece – “What Lawyers don’t get about Duterte” – appearing at the Inquirer’s Opinion Page…
Fr. Jun

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino

Very recently, Bryan Tiojanco wrote an intelligent and provocative piece that he entitled “What lawyers don’t get about Duterte”. Acutely distinguishing between “legality” and “legitimacy”, I do not think it was ever his intention to argue for EJKs. It is rather his position that the body count, that has been sufficiently bemoaned, will continue to rise for as long as this draconian measure is perceived to be necessary to defend the country. This places the entire debate where it should be — in the sphere of legal philosophy and constitutional theory.

Mr. Tiojanco’s position demands that one be willing to distinguish two characterizations: “legal” and “legitimate”, and another way of putting that is to say that not everything legal need be legitimate, and what is legitimate may not always be provided for by the law. To be sure, a distinction analogous to this has long been maintained in the history of thought. Scholastic philosophers distinguished between the “moral” and the “legal”, although it was difficult to maintain distinctness in view of their insistence that law be “ordo rationis…an order of reason”, which is exactly what a moral norm was also supposed to be: a dictate of right reason.

More recently, however, legal positivists have stressed the distinction — and advocated the stringent separation. Norms have authority because they are recognized as such by “rules of recognition” that are antecedently accepted. Jurgen Habermas, for his part, in an attempt at what one may characterize as a “reconstruction of natural law theory” hinges his entire argument on the difference between the facticity of norms and their validity — their worthiness of adherence and acceptance. In Habermas, as in Finnis — an advocate of a revived natural law theory — there is appeal to reason. Habermas calls on the power of communicative action: the reasoned common definition of a situation and the juris-generative power of free and untrammelled exchange.

And in light of these distinctions, how does the argument for EJKs, for short-cuts taken by police officers, and for the summary “disposals” of suspected drug peddlers stand to the test and to the challenge of reason? Legitimacy is not a matter of counting noses. It has to do with claims, challenges to claims and the responsibility with which an advocate advances reasons in support of those claims as well as how well such reasons stand the test of refutation and rebuttal. And that is just the trouble with the EJK issue, because plenty of what we get in purported support of the violence that has marked the aggressive campaign against drugs and their indubitable proliferation has taken the form of unintelligent trolling — comments and posts on social media sites providing prime examples of non sequiturs and unpardonable speciousness!

In fact, labelling and slandering are the antithesis of rational argumentation, and of that, we have plenty from the very vocal supporters of the present administration’s measures. In the end the elemental questions must be answered whether the summary execution of persons suspected of drug-dealing can be supported by sound argument — and whether its proponents can offer sound answers to the objections pointedly raised. Absent that, it will not do to try to find justification for what is undoubtedly “illegal” by appealing to “legitimacy”.

If anything at all, the discussion must continue — and urgently, and the scrutiny of reason must be as relentless and as thorough. The commonly interposed objection — Who will judge? — is a specious, non-issue: Anyone with the faculty of judgment will judge, and that is what discourse is all about. To deny this is to deny our capacity for discourse and to leave us all to the mercy of strategic action as the only way of resolving disputes. This cannot be our lot.

“Imagined Communities”

Imagined Communities

The imagined community is a concept coined by Benedict Anderson which states that a nation is a community socially constructed, which is to say imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

Anderson’s book, Imagined Communities, in which he explains the concept in depth, was published in 1983. His primary assertion is that it is important to consider the ‘imagined community’ when consuming media products, as every product has its own imagined community involved.

Benedict Anderson defined a nation as “an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”. An imagined community is different from an actual community because it is not (and cannot be) based on quotidian face-to-face interaction between its members. Instead, members hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity. For example the nationhood you feel with other members of your nation when your “imagined community” participates in a larger event such as the Olympics.

As Anderson puts it, a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”. Members of the community probably will never know one another face to face, however can have similar interests or are both just a part of the same nation. The media also create imagined communities, through targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public.