TACLOBAN/PHILIPPINES, 29 September 2016
When Typhoon Haiyan smashed into this city in the central Philippines almost three years ago, Arsenio was one of the lucky ones – he survived by swimming a kilometre to safety.
“Every time there is a storm, I get scared, even after three years,” he said. “I don’t want to go through the same thing again.”
And yet, there is a good chance he will. The archipelago nation is regularly rocked by storms that are predicted to get stronger and more frequent due to climate change. And the 67-year-old shopkeeper is still living in the same place: the Seawall barangay (neighbourhood), which is strung along the coast of the city of Tacloban.
“I am pissed off,” said Arsenio, who declined to give his last name. “I have not been offered any sort of relocation by the government, even in a transitional centre.”
After Haiyan – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, and one that destroyed more than a million homes and killed more than 6,000 people – the government promised to “build back better”. The strategy included relocating people away from coastal areas that are almost sure to be hit again.
The plan has so far been a failure, at least in terms of numbers.
In the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the Philippines, the government of then president Bignino Aquino III committed to building 205,000 homes to accommodate around one million people living in coastal danger zones.
Last week, Vice President Leni Robredo, newly installed as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council – an umbrella organisation overseeing various government housing agencies – admitted that only around one percent of the target had been achieved.
“The report reaching us is that only 25,000 were completed,” she said at a press conference. “From the 25,000 that were completed, 2,500 were occupied.”
Arsenio sits outside his shop in the Seawall neighbourhood
Life in danger
As the third anniversary of the Haiyan disaster approaches on 8 November, hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines, including tens of thousands in Tacloban, continue to live in areas the government has designated as “no dwelling zones”.
They include residents of Seawall who, like Arsenio, rebuilt their homes after the storm. They are shacks made from what could be found in the wreckage or was donated by charities – plywood, sacking, and corrugated iron. Some jut out into the sea, supported on stilts, and are connected to the land by single wooden boards.
Joyce Sierra, advocacy officer at Social Watch Philippines, said many survivors of Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – had to rebuild their lives with little or no assistance, which pushed them deeper into poverty. “They are even poorer and even more vulnerable now, even three years after Yolanda,” she told IRIN.
WHY WE HAVE THE CRAZIEST PRESIDENT ON EARTH?
Just very recently, there’s an article making the rounds of social media, which provides “10 Reasons The Philippines Has The Craziest President On Earth”. The reasons offered are based on pronouncements of President Duterte whether actually expressed or taken out of context to distort their meaning for political purposes.
Well, here’s my own 10+1 reasons why we have “the craziest President on earth”, and I compiled them to argue that anyone who’d attempt to address the conditions below as enumerated, is indeed “crazy”.
- Dysfunctional democracy that supports the whims of the dominant predatory oligarchies – the system was designed in such a way that there is enough period of time for opposition to demonize the sitting administration thus ensuring their removal in the next round of elections, or perhaps even through a coup d e’tat. Meanwhile, the oligarchic families and their corporations enjoy continuity and its advantages which include the time to make long-term plans to secure their fortunes on the backs of taxpayers. The government, caught in the cycle of political ambition and retribution, do not have the luxury of planning long-term as it has to focus on ‘firefighting” and struggle for survival throughout its term. In this way, vital institutions like national defense atrophy through time. In truth, the Philippines is not a democracy, but is an oligarchy.
- Derelict armed forces unable to defend and protect Philippine territory and jurisdictions from foreign occupation – from the time the oligarchy took power again in the late 1980s, the national defense establishment progressively became weak until it could not even effectively defend structures in the Spratly Island chain that should belong to the Philippines, or those within legitimate Philippine maritime jurisdiction. All that time, the defense establishment focused on protecting the dominant predatory oligarchy from fellow Filipinos demanding change (reformers, rebels, secessionists) while paying lip-service to long-term force build-up that could have prepared the country to face the challenges of the 21st century.
- Compromised check-and-balance system in national governance as the independence of the Judiciary and Legislature were completely overturned by a vindictive chief executive (a scion of the dominant oligarchy) who punished his allegedly corrupt predecessor without due process, and bribed the Senate and Congress to impeach a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This action has profoundly hurt the legitimacy of our so-called ‘democratic governance’. The former presidents as well as the chief justice of the Supreme Court were persecuted because they will not reverse a policy that is detrimental to the fortunes of the oligarchic president’s family.
- The disappearance of government funds dispensed by the Aquino administration to its allies and minions through PDAF and DAP, and the selective accountability for such imposed against opposition. This abuse of pork for purposes of political vendetta has not been redressed or corrected. One wonders how crucial state institutions like the defense establishment could have benefited from the amounts swallowed by official corruption.
- The strident, public, and ideology-based confrontation against China by the previous administration, led by no less that the former President himself and cheered on by his foreign secretary at a time when the new Chinese leadership was sensitive to the Chinese public animosity that has been intensified against the “provocations” of the Philippines. This foreign policy tack of the Pnoy government gave China the justification and compulsion to accelerate occupation of disputed structures in the South China Sea, to the point of even stealing soil from Philippines itself to use as landfill in their illegal constructions. Previous to all these, China was not an “enemy” at all, but simply one of the regional neighbors, and its transformation into an all-out adversary in just 5 years was not a coincidence, but the result of bad security and foreign policy.
- The loss of dignity of Filipinos as they are forced to cede more and more of their hard earned independence to a foreign power, just to keep another predatory hegemon from gobbling Philippine territories and maritime jurisdictions. In a fit of panic and helplessness, the previous administration called on the United States for assistance against the threat posed by China’s creeping occupation of Philippine territory and jurisdictions, almost to the point of offering Americans basing rights. One doesn’t have to be an activist or rebel to understand that this is a precipitous slide in national dignity, a contraction in self-determination that could have been avoided if the previous governments had a viable and functioning national security strategy (as early as in the first democratic administration after the Commonwealth).
- The capture of one of the major pillars of PHL’s justice system by narco-criminals for use as base for their operations, with tacit approval from the previous administration’s leadership.
- The rapid expansion of illegal drug dependence and increase in drug-related crimes victimizing innocent people over most of the Philippines.
- The treasonous act by some national and local officials of allowing foreign powers/corporations to cart off ordinary as well as mineral-laden soil from the Philippines, such as the ones stolen to be used as landfill for China’s illegal artificial structures in the South China Sea.
- The irresponsible use of journalism to favor one party over another; the wielding of journalistic license to smear reputations; the use of social media to shame the shameless and defend untenable political positions;
11.Irreconcilable positions taken by partisan citizens, the hardness of heart and narrowness of mind, the surge of emotions in expressing opposition without reference to fact or truth, the successful division of citizens as envisioned by those who do not wish to see a strong and viable government around which citizens can rally and rebuild their shattered lives.
(Source: Post in my FB)
The Indigenous Peoples in the ARMM and the Future Moro State
(Celebrating the IP Sunday – 2nd Sunday of October of each year)
There may be as many as nine million Moros and Indigenous Peoples (IP’s) in the whole of Mindanao today. Whereas in previous centuries, the IP’s were, collectively, the second largest population category in Mindanao, second only to the Moros, this has changed radically since Philippine independence in 1946. Thanks in large part to the support and encouragement provided by the government, Christian Filipino migrants from overcrowded, impoverished agrarian regions in the north flooded into the ‘unused’ lands of Mindanao.
Today, the IP’s and Moro peoples combined together comprise only about 30% of Mindanao’s population, with the IP’s, the definite minority under 10% of the population. The remaining 70% consists of mainstream Filipinos, an overwhelming majority of whom have resettled there from other regions since independence.1
However, in Moro-dominated ARMM Region, the IP population was only 122,914 or merely 4% of the population in 2013. They are grossly outnumbered by Moros who, at 2.5 million, constitute 90% of the population.2 Despite their small numbers and dispersion, IP’s are a significant presence in the Moro provinces.
There are 14 separate IP communities of significant size in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.3 In one part of Maguindanao, 26 out of 34 barangays are dominated by Teduray people.4 Also located within Moro-controlled areas are sacred sites commemorated in IP oral traditions, such as Batew in the Mt Firis Complex, sacred to the Teduray and Lambangian as the place where an ancestor ascended to heaven without dying. While retaining their own ethnic identities, the IP’s in Moro-dominated areas have routinely intermarried with Moros, converted to Islam, and otherwise have accommodated the dominant Moro culture – just as they intermarry, convert, or otherwise accommodate mainstream Filipino culture from settlers elsewhere in Mindanao. There are, for example, many Teduray who are Muslim, as well as Arumanen Manobo who are Maguindanaon-speaking Muslims, and have fought alongside Muslim insurgents.5
Since Philippine independence in 1946, the national government has carried over the administrative separation of Moros and IP’s from the mainstream Filipino groups, as well as from each other, with different generations of separate bureaucratic offices reporting directly to the President. More recently, under President Corazon Aquino, the Office of Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC) administered IP’s, whereas the Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities administered Moro affairs.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has replaced Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities since 2008, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), established as part of the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), has replaced OSCC in Mindanao and elsewhere.4 Though a relic of colonial administration, this racialized separation has been reinforced under every proposal for Moro autonomy. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created in 1989 through Republic Act No. 6734, signed into law by then President Corazon Aquino. ARMM was expanded in 2001 with Republic Act 9054,5 which officially differentiates the two peoples as such:
(a) Tribal peoples. These are citizens whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sectors of the national community; and
(b) Bangsa Moro people. These are citizens who are believers in Islam and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
This separation is not merely administrative in nature. The international outreach of Moro communities has always focused on other Muslim states and organizations, linking up consciously to them as members of the global community of Muslims. Meanwhile, IP groups have always been linked up to advocacy groups affiliated with the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, as well as global IP advocacy organizations and networks based in the North. In other words, there is a well-established precedent of fundamental separation between Moros and the IP’s, which has become a real barrier to the recognition of IP’s who have a legitimate place within the present ARMM and the future Bangsamoro.
Despite this, we do know that IP’s and Moros have deeply intertwined histories and cultural legacies. One view of their historical relationship is related in shared oral traditions about two brothers, Mamalu and Tabunaway, the putative ancestors of the IP’s and Moros, respectively. Whereas Tabunaway converted to Islam in the fifteenth century, Mamalu chose to retain the ancestral religion and moved away into the interior uplands.6
This narrative of political and religious divergence is often used to explain why IP’s and Moros are different today, despite their common genealogical, cultural and geographical origins. Despite this split, it is said that the brothers made a pact to live in peace and to help each other in times of need. Recently, an array of IP groups and their advocate NGO’s has revived this legendary pact in a novel effort (more below) to negotiate what they consider to be their rightful place alongside Moros in the present ARMM and the future Bangsamoro.
(Based on the Research of O. Paredes)
Oona Paredes. Indigenous vs. native: negotiating the place of Lumads in the Bangsamoro homeland in Asian Ethnicity, 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14631369.2015.1003690
1. Rodriguez, Lumad Demand Self-Determination. See also Montiel et al., “The Moro Struggle…,” 87.
2. There are no authoritative statistics. See IPDEV, “Fast Facts” which is based on a recent (2013) survey. See also ICG, “The Philippines,” 1, which puts the ARMM’s Lumad popula- tion at only 60,000. The ICG’s Lumad numbers are drawn from NCIP draft reports, which contain only very rough estimates. Laude, “ARMM tribesmen fear losing ancestral domain” cites an unspecified 1995 census which puts the number of Teduray and Lambangian at 300,000. To date, there has never been a thorough ethnic census to obtain a more precise population count of the Lumad in Mindanao. See Gaspar, “A Sojourner’s View: The politics of statistics involving the Lumad.”
3. Higaunon, Talaandig, Umayamnon, Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo, B’laan and Kalagan. See Mendoza, “IP Women Insights on the Peace Process.” See also Burgonio, “Bangsamoro Transition Panel Formed.”
4. Republic Act No. 8371.
5. Republic Act No. 9054, Article 10, Section 3.
6. While the story of Mamalu’s split is not specifically documented, he does appear in a Magindanaw tarsila as the brother of Tabunaway, alongside whom he was one of the first
(First of two parts)
Last Friday (07 October 2016) marked President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s first 100 days in the highest public office in our beloved Philippines. With a resounding victory over four other worthy presidential opponents (who were all probably better funded than him), Du30 won the people’s mandate to govern by an unprecedented margin of more than 6,600,000 votes out of an electorate of over 55,000,000.
At the outset, much was expected of our new President Du30 – principally in the:
•Alleviation of mass poverty by providing wider openings for poor people to earn from new livelihood opportunities and/or find better-paying jobs at home.
•Relief from the escalating costs of living, in particular, food, fuel, transportation, education and housing.
•Improvement of people’s quality of life, better governance and a happier outlook for the future which is being experienced by our Southeast Asian neighbors – for example, in the new Myanmar.
•Enhancement of public safety and national security in terms of the reduction of threats and risks arising out of the common, universal dangers of climate change, pandemic diseases, hunger and international terrorism, among others.
•Resumption of the Mindanao Peace Process particularly with the maintenance of an effective ceasefire, collection of a greater number of loose firearms, and removal of socio-economic-political barriers to a final peace agreement.
•Beginning of Charter change and legislative reforms represented by the FOI bill, climate change adaptations and reduction of taxes, among others.
•Upliftment of the morale of people and prospects for a higher position of respect and dignity within the community of nations (In 2015, the Philippines ranked in the bottom half at 115th, lower than Samoa, out of 195 countries in the UN Human Development Index).
OF COURSE, WE ARE TALKING ONLY OF THE FIRST 100 DAYS. WE DO NOT INDICATE HERE A WISH-LIST OF OUR HIGHEST ASPIRATIONS TO BE ACHIEVED IN THE 6 YEARS OF THE PRESIDENT’S TERM – BUT ONLY WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DO-ABLE BY P. DIGONG, IF HE HAD HIT THE GROUND RUNNING INSTEAD OF BEING STUCK IN UNENDING CONTROVERSIES ABOUT EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS OF DRUG SUSPECTS AND IN HIS ABILITY AT USING CUSS-WORDS AND INSULTS INSTEAD OF CIVILIZED LANGUAGE.
TEAM PHILIPPINES LOSING BADLY
IN THE OVERALL ASSESSMENT BY THIS WRITER, WE FIND OUR TEAM PHILIPPINES LOSING IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF DU30’S ADMINISTRATION – AND LOSING BADLY. THIS IS A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT AND LET-DOWN TO MANY OF US.
Looking, however, at just the first year of P.Du30’s 6-year term, there is still enough time to correct the most serious flaws in both our national leadership and national team so that in the end, the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines as a competitive country in our part of the world might still regain its rightful reputation as a vigorous and rising competitor in the family of nations – as we used to be known for in earlier days.
FVR’s focus regarding this assessment of Du30’s first 100 days is based simply on two concepts of primordial importance – LEADERSHIP and TEAMWORK – because that is where the obvious failures have emerged at this point in time.
In terms of leadership, Senator Dick Gordon has said it so truthfully and directly: “Du30 Is Falling On His Own Sword” (The Manila Times, 04 Oct), adding that the President is too noisy, and should stop saying repetitively: “I’ll will kill you.” (Is this the norm in Presidential public relations??). Ours is not to heap more brickbats on P. Du30 – because he has had more than enough already – but to help enable him to transform (thru his own efforts) from a mere provincial official to a capable international player at the head of 101,000,000 multicultured Filipinos.
THE OUTCOME ASPIRED FOR BY THE MAJORITY OF US IS TO INSURE THE BETTER FUTURE OF OUR YOUNGER GENERATIONS WHO, IN DUE TIME – WILL ASSUME THE MANTLE OF LEADERSHIP OVER OUR NATION’S POLITICAL, SECURITY, CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND OTHER INTERESTS.
HISTORICAL RELATIONS OF FILIPINOS AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Among the most unfortunate gaffes of P. Du30 was headlined thus “Duterte Gets Global Rebuke for Hitler Quip” (Daily Tribune, 02 October). The timing of this unnecessary outburst took place almost to the very moment, of the burial of the great Jewish leader, the late President Shimon Peres – known more famously as a co-founder of the State of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize winner in December 1994.
The world’s eminents – old friends and foes alike – came to honor Peres at his final resting place.
IN 1938, IT WILL BE RECALLED PRESIDENT QUEZON AGREED TO ALLOW 30,000 JEWISH FAMILIES – OR MORE THAN 100,000 JEWS – TO SETTLE IN THE PHILIPPINES. THE IDEA WAS FOR MOST OF THEM TO RESETTLE IN MINDANAO, PARTICULARLY IN BUKIDNON, TO BE INVOLVED IN FARMING.
Last year, FVR had the opportunity to meet some of the children of these families at a reception for them by the Alumni Association of the International School of Manila who were here for their Homecoming. They are now in their 80s like FVR.
THEIR STORIES OF REMEMBRANCE ABOUT OUR GOVERNMENT’S CARE FOR THEM AND THE SAFE UPBRINGING OF THEIR CHILDREN IN THE PHILIPPINES IS HEART-WARMING INDEED.
FILIPINO HOSPITALITY AND HUMANITARIANISM
THE PHILIPPINES HAS A RICH HISTORY AND TRADITION OF HOSTING REFUGEES FROM ALL AROUND THE WORLD. FIRST, THE JEWISH PEOPLE TO WHOM OUR COUNTRY GAVE SANCTUARY IN THE LATE 1930S AND EARLY 1940S.
During the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, droves of Spanish Republicans fleeing the fascist Falange Española of General Francisco Franco came here.
Then came the “White Russians” when they fled from Shanghai in 1949 as the Communist Red Army was about to lay siege. Some 6,000 of our Russian guests lived in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, for 27 months. Many later relocated to America, Canada, and Australia. Others opted to remain in the Philippines.
Twice, Chinese mainlanders were given refuge and the opportunity to prosper is the Philippines. First in 1940, when Chinese refugees fled to the Philippines thru Hong Kong to escape the atrocities of the invading Imperial Japanese forces. Second in 1949, when some 30,000 Chinese mainlanders belonging to the Kuomintang also sought sanctuary in the Philippines to avoid capture by Communist Chinese forces. Here, like all foreign refugees that we had welcomed with open arms, they nurtured their families and businesses to prosperity.
From 1975 to 1995, the Philippines, in cooperation with the U.N., provided food, healthcare, education and safety to 400,000 Indochinese “boat-people” (Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians) in Morong, Bataan and Puerto Princesa, Palawan prior to their relocation to other countries.
During FVR’s Administration in 1996, after the U.N. refugee programs had ended, some 3,000 Vietnamese refugees were allowed “indefinite stay” in “Viet Ville” settlements in Palawan and elsewhere, supported by the CBCP’s Center for Assistance to Displaced Persons (CADP).
IN MAY 2011, THEN PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III SIGNED THE INSTRUMENT OF RATIFICATION TO THE 1954 U.N. CONVENTION RELATING TO STATELESS PERSONS. THUS, THE PHILIPPINES CONTINUES TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN AID AND SANCTUARY TO REFUGEES AND STATELESS MIGRANTS.
The importance of the humanitarian values of our Cultural Legacy cannot be overemphasized. And part of that Legacy are our Virtues of Hospitality and Compassion that we readily extend not only to fellow Filipinos, but also to foreigners like the Jewish people who lived on the other side of the world during the time of President Manuel L. Quezon.
IN THE CASE OF HIS RECENT “HITLER QUIP” NO AMOUNT OF APOLOGY COULD MOLLIFY THE LONG-SUFFERING JEWS WHO HAVE DONE WELL FOR THE PHILIPPINES.
THE PUZZLES ABOUT U.S.-PHILIPPINE RELATIONS
EQUALLY DISCOMBOBULATING ARE THE MIX OF “OFF-AND-ON” STATEMENTS BY P. DIGONG ON PHILIPPINES-U.S. RELATIONS, PARTICULARLY ON SECURITY AND ECONOMIC MATTERS.
AT THE TIME WHEN (1) DFA SECRETARY JUN YASAY WAS ADDRESSING THE U.N. IN NEW YORK; (2) DOF SECRETARY SONNY DOMINGUEZ WAS LEADING A TRADE DELEGATION TO THE U.S. AND (3) DND SECRETARY DEL LORENZANA WAS HUDDLING ON SOUTH CHINA SEA/WEST PHILIPPINE SEA CONCERNS WITH U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF ASH CARTER AND THE OTHER ASEAN DEFENSE MINISTERS IN HONOLULU, OUR PRESIDENT CONTINUED TO BERATE OUTGOING PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, OUTGOING U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON, AND TERMINATED RP-U.S. MILITARY EXERCISES BY END-2016.
SO, WHAT GIVES?? ARE WE THROWING AWAY DECADES OF MILITARY PARTNERSHIP, TACTICAL PROFICIENCY, COMPATIBLE WEAPONRY, PREDICTABLE LOGISTICS, AND SOLDIER-TO-SOLDIER CAMARADERIE JUST LIKE THAT?? ON P. DU30’S SAY-SO???
LET ALL DO-GOODERS, P. DIGONG INCLUDED, PLEASE HELP JUN YASAY, DEL LORENZANA, ERNIE ABELLA AND OTHERS CLARIFY, CONTEXTUALIZE, DISBEWILDER, SOOTHE, DETOXIFY AND OTHERWISE ENLIGHTEN MOST OF US WHO BELIEVE THAT – IN THE 21ST CENTURY – HARMONY, PEACE, INCLUSIVENESS, CONNECTIVITY, AND MUTUAL BENEFIT, ETC. ARE PEOPLES’ HIGHEST ASPIRATIONS.
WE HOPE P. DIGONG’S NEXT 100 DAYS WILL BE MUCH, MUCH BETTER, CONSIDERING THE ENTIRE GAMUT OF PHILIPPINE PROBLEMS, STARTING WITH POVERTY.
KAYA NATIN ITO!!!!
Abangan Part II, Next Week.
Will Duterte’s offensive against Islamist militants in the Philippines backfire?
Marines soldiers patrol a community in Zamboanga City. One year after a deadly Muslim rebel siege on the city, the area remains insecure. Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
By David Doyle
ZAMBOANGA/PHILIPPINES, 30 September 2016
At dusk, the blue-grey peaks of Basilan look serene, rising out of the tranquil sea that separates them from the Philippine city of Zamboanga on the southernmost tip of the large main island of Mindanao.
But the peaceful scene is a mirage. In reality, Basilan and the remote islands of Sulu, further south but still part of the Mindanao group, are home to Abu Sayyaf.
The Islamist militant group has been active since 1991 and had early ties to al-Qaeda. More recently, Abu Sayyaf members have pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State. But mostly, the group is feared for its beheadings and frequent kidnap for ransom operations, which occur mainly in the maritime junction between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Rodrigo Duterte, the recently elected strongman president of the Philippines, has ordered the army to “destroy” Abu Sayyaf. During a 17 September speech to soldiers, he said the group is “hungry to establish a caliphate”.
The first three months of Duterte’s presidency have been characterised by a toxic mix of blood and bluster. In his latest gaffe, responding to criticisms of his war on drugs, which has seen more than 3,000 people killed by police and vigilantes, he likened himself to Hitler and said he’d be happy to “slaughter” three million drug addicts.
Some of Duterte’s remarks about the ramped-up war against Abu Sayyaf have been similarly off-colour. In an angry outburst during a recent regional summit in Laos, Duterte warned Abu Sayyaf: “I will open your body – just pass me the vinegar and salt and I will eat you.”
Strong words have been followed by strong actions: 10,000 troops were deployed to Sulu and Basilan along with the country’s newest and biggest warship, the BRP Tarlac.
But will the new offensive succeed in defeating Abu Sayyaf or might it actually help foster more militancy?
Critics accuse the campaign, which has largely consisted of shelling Abu Sayyaf locations, of having limited impact on militants, who flee into the jungle, whilst displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
Basilan island looms in the distance from the seawall in Zamboanga
If the military continues to use such tactics, it could actually drive young men to join the group, said Sheikh Loderson Gustham, a religious leader from Sulu.
“Most of the people in the province work in either fishing or agriculture,” he said in an interview in Zamboanga. “People are not being allowed back onto their land, because military operations are there.
“It will even contribute to the violence, because if people are without jobs and Abu Sayyaf has its own money, they can just recruit,” said Gustham.
As of 19 September, the campaign against Abu Sayyaf had displaced 18,783 people on Basilan and 23,920 people on Sulu, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Cycle of displacement
The Philippines is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but Muslims make up the majority population in some parts of Mindanao, which has been wracked by conflict since the late 1960s. The government is still battling communist insurgents, as well as an array of Islamist groups. It is all too common throughout Mindanao that civilians have to flee their homes.
Three years ago, fighting broke out in Zamboanga between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Force rebel group: 100,000 people were displaced and several civilians killed. Thousands of civilians remain in camps like the Mampang Transitory Site on the outskirts of the city.
“We don’t want it to happen again. The conflict is there in Sulu, and we just want it to stay in Sulu,” said Alfonso Hassan, a 30-year-old pedicab driver who lives in Mampang. “People here are already in trauma.”
The Mampang camp on the outskirts of Zamboanga for people displaced by 2013 fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels
The Mampang camp is run by a local NGO, Integrated Resource Development for Tri-People, which has partnered up with international NGOs including Action Against Hunger.
Kalma Isnain, executive director at IRDT, says the continual cycle of violence in Mindanao, and particularly on Sulu and Basilan, means recruitment by Abu Sayyaf has become normalised.
“The tension is already there and the children are the ones most affected,” she said. “These children, they have nothing to do with their lives, so they will join.”
Peace on the rocks
The government is in the process of negotiating an end to the conflict with the MNLF, and is in similar discussions with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But there appears to be little chance that peace will be negotiated with Abu Sayyaf.
After the MNLF asked the government to include the group in the current talks, President Duterte responded unequivocally: “I will not, I will never.”
“There will be no amnesty for so much killing,” he added, speaking to Marines on Tuesday.
There may be little public support among residents of Mindanao for Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for beheading prisoners and carrying out bombings like the 2004 SuperFerry 14 attack, which killed 116 people. But there is also a lot of distrust towards the military, especially in places like Basilan and Sulu.
Zamboanga, Philippines – Black smoke from burning houses rises in the background as a military cargo plane bearing relief goods arrives in the besieged city of Zamboanga in Mindanao, where troops are locked in a battle with Muslim rebels opposed to peace
Smoke from burning houses in Zamboanga rises behind a military aircraft delivering supplies during fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels in 2013
Sheikh Gustham said some young people see the military operation as “Christian soldiers coming to Muslim lands – a kind of crusade”.
That plays into a narrative that favours Islamist militant groups like Abu Sayyaf.
Underdevelopment and widespread poverty in Mindanao may also be factors in radicalising youth.
(Source: IRIN News)
The Challenge of Abu Sayyaf and Islamic Fundamentalism
The Abu Sayyaf Groups or ASG like any Islamic Extremist Groups are NOT accepted by mainstream Muslims. This fact alone and the many varying differences in the Islamic Movements preclude a single or monolithic fundamentalist belief.
Is there any possibility of understanding the militant and often violent Islamic Extremist groups when the leaders of these groups in the name of Islam are preaching fire and damnation against the government, Christianity, and the West? The names of Janjalani, Qaddafi, Angeles, Robot, Abu Sabaya, Marwan, Bassit, etc. are synonymous to violence, kidnappings and terrorism.
Since the early 1990s until their deaths, both Janjalani and Angeles and their successors in the Abu Sayyaf had been promoting the use of violence and acts of lawlessness, particularly kidnapping. People ask what kind of relationship these groups can foresee with Islam and other Islamic fronts in light of the lawlessness and criminality that the Abu Sayyaf is a prime example. The apprehension of extremist Islamic groups is widespread among Christians living in Southern Philippines and in other Muslim-dominated societies in the Middle East and in other parts of Asia and Africa.
This small publication is a sort of giving assistance to people to be able to wrestle with the many questions people entertain as they search for a comprehension of the terrible phenomenon as the Abu Sayyaf Groups. In this regard the cautionary advice may help orientate our perspective: “Contemporary people stereotype of Islamization reflect three tendencies which militate against understanding: sensationalism particularly in the mass media which oversimplifies complex realities; essentialism which tends to cast Islam as a monolithic religion and view all Muslims as the same; and extremism which regards all Muslims as fundamentalist with the implication that they are dogmatic, reactionary, and anti-modernist.”
An early example of prediction that Islamic fundamentalists are poised to take over the Muslim world is found in Militant Islam by the Indian-born British journalist Godfrey Jansen. Writing in the shadow of the Iranian revolution, he portrayed fundamentalism as the most potent force within the contemporary Muslim world, rooted in its Islamic past, successful in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and “well placed to come to power in Algeria, Egypt and the Sudan in the near future, and in Indonesia in the not too distant future.”
Fundamentalism is often expressed as Islam’s ‘Wrath against the West’. Anger against the West – its imperial history, its monopoly of resources, its political manipulations ensuring that Muslims’ “half-made societies are doomed to remain half-made”–is Fundamentalism’s recurrent theme.
Fundamentalism is also often associated or identified with terrorism. Beginning with Khomeini’s revolution, Islamic Fundamentalism has become a sort of a sacred rage yes a sort of the Wrath of Militant Islam. The focus is on terrorism as a particular manifestation of anger. This portrayal of fundamentalism that is almost entirely in militant terms falls back on the cliché of fanaticism.
The reductionist interpretations of Islamic fundamentalism are misleading in that they adhere to a single account of fundamentalism that, upon closer analysis, is shown to be untenable as a total explanation. They address symptoms more than causes. Does this suggest that fundamentalism is more deeply rooted in the very nature of Islam as a historic religious experience?
With greater discrimination, however, we need caution to assess Islam as fundamentalist by nature. This is to disregard the wide variety of religious, social, and political manifestation of Islamic identity throughout history. It is, in fact, to play to the fundamentalists’ own methodology and rhetoric, which seek to impose a particular view of Islam upon Muslims as a whole. Muslim and non-Muslim alike need to rectify this violent image by honoring the rich diversity of Islam’s historic and contemporary experience.
The concept of fundamentals certainly exists in Islamic thought, and centrally so in the importance of the ‘usul (“roots,” or “foundations”) of religion. The roots of Islam lie in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Shari’a. The Qur’an is held to be the very Word of God (kalam Allah). The Hadith, embodying the sunna, or inspired example of the Prophet Muhammad, serves to interpret and amplify the meaning of God’s Word. Together, the Qur’an and Hadith constitute the sources of shari’s, which, by a process of juristic discernment (figh), provides ethical instruction and guidance for Muslim communities and individuals. Traditional Islamic theology gives first place to these three fundamentals of religion, distinguishing them from everything else, which is derivative and therefore classified as “branches” (furu’).
Of the several Arabic terms that designate renewal, one that has enjoyed wide currency through the past century is islah–a word that has no precise English equivalent but that conveys the idea of making righteous. It was used particularly by Muslims from the second half of the nineteenth century who wanted to restore the identity of Islamic society (at the time largely controlled by European empires) by returning to the precedent of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (salaf). Known as the Salafiya movement, (17) it eschewed anachronistic historicism by advocating a renewed use of reason ‘aql) as the means of interpreting the fundamentals of religion over against centuries of imitative tradition (taqlid).
Generally considered to be the first “fundamentalist” movement in the Muslim world, the Muslim Brotherhood enables us to identify the phenomenon (1) as the social application of Islamic principles, (2) as a counter-ideology to the ruling elite, (3) with leaders emerging form outside the rank of religious professionals (‘ulama), and (4) as attractive to people who feel themselves alienated from both traditional Islamic authority and secular rulers.
Central to Social Transformation is the concept of jihad, the Arabic word for “striving,” in which it is the duty of all Muslims to engage. The Prophet Muhammad taught that jihad is engaged at four levels: in the heart, as the place of spiritual striving; by the tongue, as the means of preaching and teaching the message of Islam; by the hand, as the means of its social application; and finally by the sword, as the implement of its defense and confrontation against ungodly forces. This last meaning of militant struggle was exemplified in the Prophet Muhammad’s strategy against pagan forces of Mecca from his home base in Medina. Sayyid Qutb drew an analogy between this and the situation in Egypt under the cold war pressures of Soviet and American influences. He declared Egypt to be in a state of pagan ignorance; thus he justified the use of force to bring about change.
Analysts of the Iranian revolution question the degree to which it was purely Islamic in the sense of being motivated solely by religious factors. A potent variety of political and economic elements were involved. As the only major institution during the Pahlavi monarchy that successfully resisted state control, it was the clergy, under Khomeini’s uncompromising leadership, who were able to articulate popular grievances against the Westernizing trends of the shah’s Iranian nationalism, eventually to the point of directing and “Islamizing” the forces of opposition.
Now into its second decade, and deprived of Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership, the Islamic Republic is moving into a new phase colored by ideological compromise, internal power sharing, and reconciliation with the United States. In terms of a descriptive definition of fundamentalism, this current status underlines two features: the strength of the fundamentalists lies in their defining, through religious symbols, the opposition to a ruling regime; the problem facing the fundamentalists is the difficulty of translating their religious generalizations into sustainable governmental programs.
The debates on the Abu Sayyaf and Fundamentalism will help us develop a descriptive profile of the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism in the Philippines. It becomes clear that no simple definitions, as have been offered in much of the literature of the 1980s, are sufficient. The phenomenon is not monolithic. There are striking differences between and among Fundamentalist groups where the phenomenon has a longer history than anywhere else in the Muslim World, we find a broad spectrum of theory and praxis.
This is why many scholars refuse to use the term “fundamentalism,” deeming it too imprecise to identify the complexity of trends that are actually involved. If we choose to retain the term, we need to think of fundamentalisms in the plural and to avoid generalization from the perspective of any one of them. (Prof. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI – Notre Dame University, Graduate School)
(Updated from my original publication of there ASG Primer. 1998: NDU)
Aging, I decided, is a gift.
I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that aging person that lives in my mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long.
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend.
I don’t chide myself for eating that extra serving, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.
I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?
I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70’s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love … I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like aging… It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day. (If I feel like it)
MAY OUR FRIENDSHIP NEVER COME APART ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART!
MAY YOU ALWAYS HAVE A RAINBOW OF SMILES ON YOUR FACE AND IN YOUR HEART FOREVER AND EVER!
(Note: I took note of the piece above and I no longer remember the provenance of it…)
Badal: St. Francis of Assisi
1. It is enough to utter his name and everyone knows who he is. St. Francis was a man of God. And because he was a man of God, he always lived what was essential. So he was a simple, courteous and gentle to everyone, like God in his mercy.
2. The Phenomenological Manifestations of our epoch…
• Emptiness. It is born of a feeling of impotence. There is very little we can do to change our life, our community and society. Finally there is really nothing important…
• Loneliness. It is an experience of lass of contact with nature and others in terms of friendship and gentleness. There is the lack of courage to commit oneself.
• Fear. It is the fruit of objective threats to life, to employment, to collective survival of humanity in general.
• Anxiety. It has its origin in imagined fear, ignorance as to what one ought to do, in whom to trust, and what to expect. When anxiety grips an entire society it means that the whole society feels threatened and senses its approaching end.
• Aggressiveness without objectives. It reveals a rupture with the norms of relationship without which a society cannot be built or defended. What results is anonymity and the loss of the meaning of the self, that is, the worth and sacredness of human person.
From the above, Two consequences ensue… first is Emptiness and second is Loss. It is the loss of language of everyday communication, the loss of meaningful relationship and the lack of vital relationship with nature and habitat.
3. The New Ethos… It is a new way of life with many and varied relationship to nature, to others, to religion and to God. In St. Francis, it was through Pathos (Sympathy) and Eros (fraternal communication and tenderness). Manifestations are:
• His Innocence
• His enthusiasm for nature
• His gentleness to all beings
• His capacity for compassion with the poor and “confraternization” with all elements and even death itself.
4. To Be Saint … in the case of Francis…
• To be Saint, it is necessary to be human.
• To be human, it is necessary to be sensitive and gentle.
“A person knows as much as he/she does.” Francis’s gentleness was demonstrated, especially in his human relationship. He broke the rigidity of the feudal hierarchy and called all persons as brothers and sisters. He himself was called “little brother” (fratello). He wanted to unite great and small, to treat the wise and simple with brotherly affection, to bind with tie of love those who were held at a distance. He treated everyone with outmost courtesy, even Saracens, Infidels and thieves.
5. Francis of Assisi and Islam
In 1219 a meeting took place between Francis and Sultan al0Malik-al-Kamil of Egypt at Damietta (a Northern City in Egypt). It took place over a period of three week during the fifth Crusade. The encounter had deep impact on both (Francis and the Sultan and his Vizier.
The original call of then 5th Crusade in 1213 came with the Encyclical – Letter, Quia Maior. The letter established a comprehensive practical as well as religious framework for the new crusade – support the crusade material and spiritually. The Letter and 4th Lateran Council and the Crusade presented Islam as the enemy of God; enemy of the faith and it was evil. This was in keeping with then approach taken by Bernard of Clairvaux in his call for the 2nd Crusade. Francis arrived at the Crusaders’ Camp and he tried to dissuade the soldiers to engage in combat. He foretold their defeat at Damietta.
There are two strands in the desire of Francis to meet the Sultan. First was Francis’ FERVOUR OF CHARITY and 2nd was his DESIRE FOR MARTYRDOM. The Sultan and his Vizier recognized in Francis the HOLINESS akin to the Muslim Sufi. The Vizier of the Sultan was a well-known and respected Sufi – Fakr-el-Din-Farsi (in his tomb were written these words: “this man’s virtue is know to all. His adventure with al-Malik al-Kamil and what happened to him because of the monk, all that is very famous”). They listened to him as Francis proposed to undertake the test of faith by fire to which Francis, the Sultan and his Vizier would endure. The Sultan refused the challenge and but continued to respect Francis who eventually returned to the Crusaders’ Camp. In the final farewell, the Sultan asked Francis to pray that he might receive from God a revelation as to which faith is most pleasing in God’s sight.
6. The Impact of the Encounter on Francis, the Sultan and the Vizier? The encounter between Francis, the Sultan and his Vizier was a powerful foundational experience that FREEs both of them from the limits of one’s vision and understanding of life. This foundational experience allows the possibility of movement from one horizon to another. And movement into a new horizon may involve what Fr. Lonergan speaks of as an “about face” – a new sequence that can keep revealing ever greater depth and breadth and wealth. Such an “about face” and new beginning is what is meant by a conversion. Fr. Lonergan describes Conversion in Method in Theology as a “process of sublation that keeps all the essential features of what is sublated but carries these forward to find FULLER REALIZATION WITHIN A WIDER AND RICHER CONTEXT”.
• The meeting or encounter between and among the ‘friends’ of God;
• Appreciating the value each represents and criticizing their defects, yet allowing one’s living to be challenged at its very roots by their words and deeds;
• Such an encounter is a way in which self-understanding n and horizon can be put to test.
Francis was never the same again after the encounter at Damietta…This found expression when he re-wrote Chapter 16 of the Rule. He did NOT speak anymore of martyrdom but told his brothers who wished to go as missionaries to the Muslims “to heal the violence of the world; testify to their Christian faith by a simple, peaceable presence and a disposition to service”. He left respectful of Muslims to the point that he encouraged Christians to emulate them in prayer and prostration, and to join Muslms — and others — in service to all despite their different religions, and he specifically told his followers not to try and convert them.
Having seen Muslim prayers while in Egypt he declared for his followers: “You should manifest such honour to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement be made by a town crier or some other signal that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God.”
And, “At the mention of His name you must adore Him with fear and reverence, prostrate on the ground … so that in word and deed you may give witness to his voice and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all-powerful but Him.” And instead of seeking converts among Muslims, in missionary work he charged his followers: “[The brothers] are not to engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to (serve) every human creature for God’s sake.” Those words calling us all — Christian and non-Christian alike for the sake of our shared humanity under God-Most-High — to service Him alone. Based on all that, I think it’s pretty obvious that in those three weeks St. Francis learned that Muslims were God’s people too.
And what did knowing St. Francis of Assisi do to Sultan al Malik al Kamel? Ten years later, in 1229, by diplomacy alone and by no act of warfare, he ceded control of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and a corridor from there to the sea to the Christians, saving only the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Muslims, and the temple area for the Jews.
7. Peace… One of the global values lived by Francis was Peace.
• The World is the “regio dissimilitudinis” and behind these dissimilarities are camouflaged injustices and violence.
• Every time Francis began his preaching, he invoked Peace… saying: “the Lord gives you peace.” It is Peace and all good (Pax et Bonun). His group carries out a true mission of peace – “Legatio Pacis”.
• The peace that is proclaimed in word ought always to be present in the heart. Let no one be provoked by us to anger or scandal, but rather let all through your gentleness, be led to Peace, Tranquility and agreement. “BE KINDER WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS.”
8. The Role of Mediation… During the Crusades, Francis had a profound impact on the Sultan and owing to his sympathy, tolerance and respect and love for peace. Francis gave a vote of confidence to the liberating capacity of kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding. Peace in his own PERSON manifested in his words, poetry and song.
PEACE IS NOT ONLY A GOAL THAT MUST BE REACHED, IT IS ALSO A METHOD.
Final Note: Francis was able to transform enmity to friendship; revulsion to love. The stigmata was also intimately tied to his experience at Damietta. When Francis heard of all the preparations for yet another Crusade y the mighty army of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1224, Francis with few close companions went to La Verna to do a ‘Lent of St. Michael’ –an intense prayer and fasting on behalf of his brother al-Malik al-Kamil. The mystical experience of Francis at La Verna is called the ‘Soul’s journey into God’. The Stigmata of Francis was his identification of what signified in the Cross of Jesus. St. Paul’s writing to the Ephesians says: “for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he may create in himself one new man in lace of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2: 14 – 17)
Bapa Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines
September 14, 2016
Note: Sublation may refer to:
• Sublation, a translation of the German term aufheben
• Ritual purification, the purification or exaltation of matter by its negation or redirection
Tragic Legacies yet Called to Work Together to Save the Earth!
In these troubled times, especially post September 11, 2001 or 9/11, more than ever, we urgently need people of can see far beyond the tragic legacies that have continued to mar Muslim-Christian relations. Part of this tragedy is the fact that even highly educated and professionals, sadly including men and women of religion are no longer exempted from the prevailing bigotry and biases that exercise tyranny over our spirit. Often enough we hear admonitions to the effect that, no matter, what deep down in our hearts and psyche ‘we still cannot trust each other’. These same words we hear in our communities and land. For almost every violence, kidnapping and killing in our community, they see these violence as if with the “eyes of faith” pointing to the Muslim or the Christian perpetrators. We interpret the events along the natural fault lines of religion and ethnicity, the legacy that continues to haunt Christian and Muslim relations.
A) The Tragic Legacies…
Tragic legacies… there are aplenty!
First, there is the painful memory of historical supercession of Christian faith in the Middle East – the birth of Christendom & North Africa by the expansion of Islam in the 7th & 8th Centuries. Part of this long and painful memory is the 8 centuries of Muslim occupation and “reconquista” of the Iberian Peninsula. Then there was the Ottoman assault and occupation of some strategic areas in the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia, Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe that concluded in the much celebrated Europen Victory in the Battle of Vienna in 1592.
In Southern Mindanao, we have the three centuries of Moro Wars under Spain and the more than 10 years of US Pacification of Muslim Mindanao that ended with the abolition of the Sultanates and the complete incorporation of the Muslim dominions to the US Philippine Colony. Then in the 50’s. we have the revolt of Kamlon. And in our own time we were witnesses to the cruel wars between the Blackshirts (Muslims) and the Ilagas (Christians) – the forerunners of the War waged by the the Moro National Liberation Front of MNLF in the early 70’s to the 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement. The struggles of the MNLF and the MILF and other Moro Fronts, albeit the Peace Agreements (19976: Tripoli Agreement; 1996 the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF; and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on th Bangsamoro with the MILF) continue and they are all part of this painful memory.
Second, there is the fact that the long tradition of Islamic tolerance of the church and its faith is true only in terms of a freedom to remain only & not the freedom to recruit. The dhimmi status of the Christian minorities (the status of the protected people) is both resented and hated. Freedom of movement of belief within the Islamic Empire was only into Islam.
Third, the painful memory of the Crusades is still alive. More recently the situation has been more embittered by the Christian involvement in that Western dominance of Muslim peoples politically & economically – which Islam sees as a kind of aberration from the true course of Islamic history where power must always be in the hands of Muslims.
The lingering resentments & injustices are deep in the psyche of relationship. With few exceptions, there was no mutual openness between faiths, but only survival within supercession, conquest, colonialism and cultural domination. There is only the steady accumulation of the instinct by which both faiths developed a sort of exclusivism of culture & identity around their inner focus of faith & rite drawing all things into a calculated otherness and exclusivism from which we now struggle so hardly to escape.
All those legacies are familiar enough and part of our problem. Is it simply escaping from their tyranny over our spirits? Is there a way out for us – caught in this tragic human drama? It is akin to an experience of finding ourselves locked in a room with no exit? Has education shown the way to break down the barriers that separate us? Thus, EDUCATION becomes and experience of steadily schooling ourselves to resist and reject our habit of preferring suspicion to trust, to reject the instinct to prefer familiar confrontation to new relationship of partners and common “stakeholdership”.
Why? Because despite these tragic legacies of enmity and otherness, we have to wake up to the reality that we inhabit the same threatened planet, we breathe the same air, and cultivate the same land we considered our own, and we are co-workers in the same work places and more, there are fascinating areas of common spiritual territory within our simple religious ancestry. For better or for worse, our lives, liberation and development are bound to each other.
B) The Call to Go beyond the Limits of Ethnicity and Religion…
Today we hear the urgent call for greater involvement and participation in peacebuilding and reconsttruction of our ravaged communities and threatened earth.. The call to go beyond the confines of our ethnicity, nationality and religion, in different languages and tongues, is being launched and heard from the mountains to the plains, from big cities and small alike, from the Vatican to Cairo, from the smallest ‘pesantren’ and madrasah (Islamic School) in an Indonesian or Southern Philippines village to a small basic ecclesial community or BEC. People of different faiths and ethnicities are struggling to grapple with our diversities and embrace the challenges and demands of working for the common good, the survival of all species and the very survival of the planet earth.
Why have the issues of common survival and the common good become paramount issues in an era of possible extinction of all life forms including the planet earth?
Few years back, people believed, especially the ‘prophets’ of modernization and secularization, that religion and ethnicity would be the first casualties of globalization. It did not happen. Instead, the world was shocked and continued to be shocked by the increasing religious and ethnic intolerance. The ethnic war in Rwanda and Burundi with its accompanying tragedy of “genocides” is a classic example in Africa. The partition of former Yugoslavia and the ensuing ethnic and religious war, again, with the ugly face of “ethnic cleansing” has shocked the world in this so-called era of globalization. The same thing can be said in East Timor, Indonesia and Southern Philippines. Yes, the world is experiencing the malady of religious and ethnic intolerance and killing.
Then the terrorists’ attacks both in New York and Washington happened and the world is no longer the same again. Terrorism has acquired a new face and notoriety. Rightly or wrongly, “Fundamentalism” in religion, ideology and ethnicity and political policies that perpetuate injustices and inequity, perceived or real, are seen as the seedbeds of “terrorism” that have held the world hostage since September 11, 2001. No doubt, the surge of fundamentalism and the present paranoia over terrorism contribute to the urgency of religious and cultural dialogue. The manifestations of fundamentalism have not only shown intolerance, but also have made dialogue very difficult. For one, the narrow, inflexible and exclusive worldview of fundamentalism admits no compromise or dialogue.
The truth is the fact that we are peoples of many and diverse faiths, cultures and political ideologies. Though many and different, the relationships need not be hostile or indifferent. The diversities invite us to make a shift in our paradigm from hostility to partnership; from indifference to involvement; from being closed to being opened to one another, and from being exclusive to inclusive in our outlook. Our diversities need NOT LEAD to that famous slogan of “CLASH of civilizations. What we need today is partnership between and among our diverse cultures and civilizations.
We have to believe and hold that our life and future are bound to each other. Our path needs not be characterized by war or by clash of civilizations. We are together in the journey through life. For better or worse, we are neighbors and as neighbors, we can be partners in building not only of a better world but more so of a friendlier community where you and I, and our children can live as brothers and sisters.
There are three basic steps that will help us walk this new path of partnershipmor alliance of civilizations.
• First is the recognition that our life, future and destiny are bound up with each other. No, we cannot espouse a politics of exclusivism in whatever forms; or politics of separatism, or culture of exclusivism. Neither can any ony nation or religion or ethnicity can act as sole proprietors of the land or of the earth.
• Second is to be open, that is, Eph’pheta/Iftah, to each other – learning not only from each other but more so to live and work as partners in shaping our common lives and destiny in peace, justice and care of the earth. Yes, we must not be afraid or hesitate to accept, to trust and to work with each other as partners.
• Third is our commitment and involvement in the promotion and guarantee of the rights and dignity of every person regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, culture and color within our society/community.
The basis of this commitment is our belief that all peoples even though they belong to different religions, nations, etc. all form ONE human family, created by the ONE and same God, living in the same world/community, and destined for a common end.
Few years back (October 2007), 138 Muslim Scholars and Religious leaders wrote a letter to all Christian Leaders of the World. The letter is now known as the “Common Word between You and Us”. At the beginning, the letter reminds all sundry that Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The survival of all species and of the planet earth depends on collective work for the common good of Muslims and Christians.
The Letter states that the basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: “love of the One God, and love of the neighbor”. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity.
The Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” And: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”
However, empathy and sympathy for the neighbour and even formal prayers are not enough. They must be accompanied by generosity and self-sacrifice. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the
poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:177)
The Letter continues to exhort all people of goodwill to “let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Rather, let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which God hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each we have appointed a law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community? But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:48)
Accepting and living with our differences is NOT a universal element in human relations. It has to be slowly, patiently and sometimes painfully built through time. Here I echo the words of Saint John Paul II in his address at Casablanca:
“People do not accept their differences.
They do not know each other sufficiently.
They reject those who have not the same civilization.
They refuse to help each other.
They are unable to free themselves from egoism and from self-conceit.
But God created all equal in dignity,
Though different with regard to gifts and talents,
Mankind is a whole where each one has his/her part to play.
The worth of the various peoples and of the diverse cultures must be recognized.
The world is as it were a living organism.
Each one has something to receive from the others and has something to give to
(John Paul II, Address at Casablanca Morocco on 18 August 1985.)
Again during the papal visit in Damascus, John Paul II presented to the world his dream and hope for Christianity and Islam as we journey together into the new millennium.
“It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as COMMUNITIES IN RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE, NEVER MORE AS COMMUNITIES IN CONFLICT”. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures, and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.”
“Better mutual understanding will surely lead to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each other’s religious beliefs at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions NOT IN OPPOSITION, as it happened too often in the past, BUT IN PARTNERSHIP FOR THE GOOD OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.”
“May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and Glory forever. Amen.” (John Paul II the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, 6 May 2001).
I appeal once more to all the peoples of goodwill and all political leaders, to recognize that confrontation has failed and will always fail. Only by working together can we bring the conditions needed for the economic, cultural and social development to which the people of the world have a right.”
(Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI – Badaliyya – Philippines)
Al Qa’ida – Origin and Objectives
Compiled by Prof. Eliseo Mercado, OMI
Graduate School – Notre Dame University
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.
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.
Al-Qaeda has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General, the Commission of the European Communities of the European Union, the United States Department of State, the Australian Government, Public Safety Canada, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook, South Korean Foreign Ministry, the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service, the United Kingdom Home Office, Russia, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Swiss Government.
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.
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.
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.”
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.” 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!”  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. Qutb had an even greater influence on Osama bin Laden’s mentor and another leading member of al-Qaeda, 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.” Zawahiri paid homage to Qutb in his work Knights under the Prophet’s Banner. 
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.
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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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”.
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.” 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.
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. 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.
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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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. 
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  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”,) in the small town of Akora Khattak near Peshawar, situated in Pakistan but largely attended by Afghan refugees. 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. 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. This became al-Qaeda’s justification for killing civilians.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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, 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’.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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’.
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.
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”, 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. Although its authenticity has been questioned by some, 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. 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.”
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.
(All footnotes are in separate pages…)