Lord, Heal our Land

LORD HEAL OUR LAND| Sep 12, 2017 |     

(cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14)

Our brothers and sisters in Christ:

Kian, Carl, Reynaldo…they were young boys, enjoying life, loving sons of parents who doted on them. Now an entire nation knows them by name because their lives have been snuffed out so cruelly, their dreams and aspirations forever consigned to the sad realm of “what could have been but never will be”.

They cannot be statistics, for to reduce them to numbers in an increasing tally is to heap yet more injustice than has already been visited on them. They are only three of so many, awfully many, who have paid the price of what is touted to be the country’s resolute drive against criminality!

We mourn. The nation must beat its breast in a collective admission of guilt for in our silence and in our inaction, in our diffidence and in our hesitation lie our complicity in their deaths!

We are appalled by the remorselessness by which even the young are executed. The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us your bishops to declare:

In the name of God, stop the killings! May the justice of God come upon those responsible for the killings!

For the good of the country, stop the killings! The toll of “murders under investigation” must stop now.

For the sake of the children and the poor, stop their systematic murders and spreading reign of terror! In memory of those killed, let us start the healing of our bleeding nation.

The healing must begin. Malasakit must be restored. Pakikiramay must be active. Pakikipag kapwa tao must be gained back. The rule of law must prevail.

Because we Christians are heralds of a Gospel of Life there is no way that one can be a faithful Christian, let alone a fervent Catholic, and yet stay safely quiet in the face of these shocking attacks against human life. The very Gospel that the Church was founded to teach is a Gospel of Life. The Church must either be at the forefront of the intense and fervent struggle against a culture of death or the Church betrays Christ.

Saint John Paul II taught years many years ago:

Brother kills brother. Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the “spiritual” kinship uniting mankind in one great family, in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity.…

Cain’s killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: man’s revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man. (EV, 😎

When we label members of our society because of the offenses they commit – or that we impute rightly or wrongly against them – as “unsalvageable”, “irremediable”, “hopelessly perverse” or “irreparably damaged”, then it becomes all the easier for us to consent to their elimination if not to participate outright in their murder. We stand firmly against drugs and the death drugs have caused, but killing is not the solution of the problem.

The mercy of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the lost sheep is the only reason why we are still here—awa ng Diyos. The “mandate” to kill the lost sheep is poison for humanity. The wounded need healing, not more blows, and the fallen need our hands to be able to rise again, not our feet to trample on them.

We your bishops call for pakikiramay, pakikipagkapwa-tao and malasakit in action; the action to which we bid you all is utterly Christian. It is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal – the action of prayer.

1. We invite you to offer prayers particularly for those killed in the government’s campaign against drugs, as well as for all victims of violence and the war in Marawi, in our country for a FORTY DAY period, starting SEPTEMBER 23 and ending on NOVEMBER 1. Please offer the rosary daily for the killed and receive Holy Communion as an offering for their souls. May the souls of the killed find rest. Prayer heals us. Prayer helps their souls.

2. Subject to the approval of the diocesan bishops, we appeal for the pealing of church bells at 8:00 pm during the same forty day period in remembrance of the souls of those killed. The ancient pious tradition of De Profundis is worth restoring. Let the bells call us to pray for the dead.

3. One beautiful Filipino custom observed in prayerful remembrance of the dead is the tirik ng kandila sa patay. So we urge our Filipino Catholics, during this same 40 day period, to light candles in front of their homes, in cemeteries, in public places, and particularly, at spots where the victims of the on-going violence have been felled and have lost their lives, while praying for them and for their families. Candle lighting can soothe grieving hearts.

4. Finally, we beg you to contribute to the support and the schooling of the orphaned children of the victims of these murders, or of their siblings, or the support and sustenance of their families. Almsgiving covers many sins. Almsgiving heals.

We intend to offend none but the evil in our midst. We are angry at none but the indifference amongst us. We fight the darkness not with spark of bullets but with the light of Christ. We beg for prayers and we ask for a change of heart in all of us.

Let us turn once more to God, for they who put their trust in bullets and weapons will be confounded. But upon the nation that turns to God and prays, God promises the healing of the land and the calming of the storms that rage in our hearts.

Let the healing begin.

For the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, September 12, 2017

(SGD)+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

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We All Need a Sabbatical…

LOOKING FOR REST AMID THE PRESSURES OF LIFE

Whenever we feel that way, it’s a sure sign that we’ve lost the proper sense of time. Life is meant to be busy, but we’re also meant, at regular times, to have sabbatical, sabbath time, to rest and enjoy.

When we look at scripture we see that God established a certain rhythm to time.

Biblically, this is the pattern: We’re meant to work for six days, then have a one-day sabbatical; work for seven years and have a one year sabbatical; work for seven times seven years (forty-nine years) and have a Jubilee year; and finally work for a lifetime and have an eternity of sabbatical. The idea is that our pressured, hurried, working days should be regularly punctured by times of rest, celebration, enjoyment, non-work, non-pressure, and that ultimately all work will cease and we will have nothing to do except to luxuriate in life itself.

Sabbath is meant to be unordinary time, a time when our normal work and the everyday pressures of life are stopped. Partly this is meant to free us up for deeper things, but mainly it is meant to remind us that we do not live to work, but rather work in order to live and love.

Sabbath is meant to be a time for enjoyment, for high celebration. And this isn’t abstract: On a sabbath we’re meant to eat our best meal of the week, wear our best clothing, rest, enjoy the earth and each other, and (if you’re really an Orthodox believer) to make love.

Sabbath is also meant to be a time for reconciliation, for forgiving debts, for giving up grudges, for making peace with our enemies. The cessation of work, the rest, the celebration, the drinking in of enjoyment, and the making love are all partly ends in themselves.

The sabbath was made for us. However they’re also in function of something else, namely, reconciliation, forgiveness. We only truly celebrate the sabbath, have a genuine holiday, if we forgive someone.
We need sabbath.

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In Safer Hands than Ours…

IN SAFER HANDS THAN OURS

The truth of those words can be particularly consoling when the deceased is a young person, someone whom we feel still needs the hands of an earthly mother and father and whom we would want to trade places with because we feel that he or she is too young to have to leave us and go off in death, alone. That is also true in the case of someone who dies in a far-from-ideal manner, suicide or a senseless accident.

Nothing can be more consoling than to believe that our loved one is now in far safer and gentler hands than our own.

Is this simple wishful thinking, whistling in the dark to keep up our courage? Fudging God’s justice to console ourselves?

Not if Jesus can be believed! Everything that Jesus reveals about God assures us that God’s hands are much gentler and safer than our own.

God is not a God of punishment, but a God of forgiveness. God is not a God who records our sins, but a God who washes them away. God is not a God who demands perfection from us, but a God who asks for a contrite heart when we can’t measure up. God is not a God who gives us only one chance, but a God who gives us infinite chances. God is not a God who waits for us to come to our senses after we have fallen, but a God who comes searching for us, full of understanding and care. God is not a God who is calculating and parsimonious in his gifts, but a prodigal God who sows seeds everywhere without regard for waste or worthiness. God not a God who is powerless before evil and death, but a God who can raise dead bodies to life and redeem what is evil and hopeless. God is not a God who is arbitrary and fickle, but a God who is utterly reliable in his promise and goodness. God is not a God who is dumb and unable to deal with our complexity, but a God who fashioned the depth of the universe and the deepest recesses of the human psyche.

Ultimately, God is not a God who cannot protect us, but is a God in whose hands and in whose promise we are far safer than when we rely upon ourselves.

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Understanding the DAESH System…

UNDERSTANDING THE ISLAMIC STATE’S SYSTEM – STRUCTURE AND WILAYAT
UPDATED MAY 9, 2017 MAY 4, 2015 HELENE LAVOIX 3 COMMENTS

ACTORS MAPPING AND STATE OF PLAY, THE ISLAMIC STATE

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UPDATED: 22 FEBRUARY 2016

Conflicting information regarding the Islamic State and the evolution of the war emerge everyday from the media, while analysts, commentators and official statements are no less swaying. For example, on 13 April 2015, “Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman” stressed that the Islamic State had “ceded 5,000 to 6,000 square miles of territory”, painting a “rosier portrait” as reported by Mitchell Prothero and James Rosen for McClatchy DC (15 April 2015). A mere two days later, the same spokesman was describing battles in Ramadi and Baiji in a sobering way, even though Prothero and Rosen also underline that “U.S. officials have been cautious about overstating Iraqi successes against the Islamic State” (Ibid.) – since then Baiji is again under Iraqi government control, while fighting continues in Ramadi and more generally Anbar, see Rudaw, 22 April 2015; 29 April 2015; 26 April 2015.

As another example, if the Islamic State has lost ground and the city of Tikrit and if the situation in Anbar remains contested (e.g. Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss, The Long War Journal, 26 April 2015), on the other hand, a first psyops video from Yemen, “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Yemen – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā’” was also “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Yemen – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā’”, Yemen, Islamic State, ISIS, ISpublished on 24 April 2015 (see Jihadology.net*), after the 20 March 2015 first statement “Adopting the Martyrdom Operations Against the Dens of the Ḥūthīs – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā’” (Jihadology.net). This could signal the start of real activities there. Indeed, Yemen was declared a Wilayat in November 2014 (Aaron Zelin, “The Islamic State’s model“, The Washington Post, 28 January 2015, Ludovico Carlino, IHS Jane’s, 25 March 2015), but, according to Zelin (Ibid.), hardly activity had been seen by the end of January. We would thus have both attrition and expansion.

Psyops and propaganda, the fog of war, as well as the difficulty to obtain reliable information on the Islamic State, all interacting, contribute to this complicated situation.

The scope, intensity and evolution of the threat constituted by the Islamic State, its Khilafah and the worldview and system they seek to establish (see the Psyops series), as well as the length of the war and the prospects for its fate, fundamentally depend upon the Islamic State’s ability to be successful in meeting aims located along three interacting dimensions: Wilayat Sanaa, Yemen, Islamic State, IS, ISISconsolidating and developing the Islamic State and its Khilafah as a polity in all its facets, asserting supremacy over actual or potential competing groups and fighting victoriously against attacking foes (see H. Lavoix, “The Islamic State Psyops – Worlds War”, The Red Team Analysis Society, 16 January 2015). As a result, defeating the Islamic State implies attacking along these three dimensions, permanently hindering each aim.

Previously, we focused on the Islamic State’s psyops as a way to understand better its belief-system, way of thinking, worldview and objectives. We notably underlined that its current and potential influence, as well as the related power of its approach, are grounded in its ability to promote a specific coherent ideology anchored in a real material territorial state-like power, thus synthesising idealism and materialism (see for the detail H. Lavoix, “Worlds War“, Ibid.). Now, we shall address the material or concrete side of the Islamic State, although not forgetting the socio-ideological model which is at its foundation, focusing on the Islamic State’s ability to indeed create a real polity. We shall seek to improve our understanding of the type of polity, with its specificities, that is being formed. Our ultimate aim is to be able to contribute to a foresight assessment of the sustainability of the Islamic State, in other words to answer to questions such as: Is the Islamic State about to collapse? Is it reinforcing? Will it last one, two, or ten years?

We shall here focus on the overall structure of the Islamic State and its Khilafah and identify a meaningful unit of analysis, with specificities that can then be monitored to foresee and warn about the overall developments of the Islamic State.

[Check also the 22 February 2016 detailed analysis for the Islamic State structure and wilayat in Yemen using the framework explained here: “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Wilayat and Wali in Yemen“]

Internal governance and external wilayat?

The first difficulty when describing a polity is not to introduce unwillingly biases, notably by projecting unconscious models we may have of the way a political entity functions onto another. Keeping in mind the diversity of political organisations over time and space, from, for example, the southeast Asian pre-modern “galactic polity” system (Tambiah, 1976) to the modern nation-state through the European feudal system, on the one hand, and the originality of the Islamic State system merging Salafism thus old Islamic texts with materialism and use of twenty-first century techniques and approach, it is most probable that we shall often or to the least sometimes be faced with political units and dynamics that will not correspond to our usual, implicit, modern-state model. We are likely to also find hybrid, novel, or different political practices and organisations.

The first differentiation that most analysts of the Islamic State’s organisation, relying on scant sources, seem to make is to distinguish between “external and internal governance”, thus reproducing more or less the usual differentiation between domestic political organisation (the state and its administrative divisions) wilayat, Iraq, Islamic State, governance, war, Is, ISISand external one (from client states, to allies through colonies). We thus find studies of what seems to be conceptualised as focusing on the “Islamic State proper” – i.e. what territory has been captured in Syria and Iraq and is ruled, apparently directly – on the one hand and, on the other, analyses of areas which are declared by the Islamic State as wilayat, often following a pledge of allegiance done by a group that is a would-be state actor and its acceptance by the Khalif.

The first case is exemplified by Barrett’s The Islamic State (The Soufan Group, November 2014). The author relies mainly, for the part regarding leadership and “governance structure”, on an analysis published by The Telegraph (Ruth Sherlock, 9 Jul 2014; see for a use of apparently the same source, CNN and TRAC, 14 January 2015), using “information, which was found on memory sticks taken from the home of Abu Abdul Rahman al-Bilawi, al-Baghdadi’s military chief of staff for Iraqi territory” to which the analyst Hashimi al Hashimi “had access”.

According to Hashimi, Sherlock, and Barrett, we thus have a highly centralised structure (Barrett: 28) headed by the Khalifah (Caliph, the person who is the stewart for the Khilafah, the political organisation), advised and legitimated (knowing that legitimacy may also be questioned) by two councils, the Shura council and the Sharia council, seconded by two deputies, one being responsible for Iraq and the other for Syria, then by various councils (we shall come back to this more in detail with the next post, see “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – The Calif and Legitimacy“). The Islamic State was then divided into 18 wilayat, eight in Iraq, nine in Syria and one, Wilayat Al-Furat, on the border between Syria and Iraq (Ibid.: 33). Still using this approach, but updating it, by March 2015, according to Dabiq #8 (p.27) we have 20 wilayat: ten in Iraq, nine in Syria and Al-Furat.

Islamic State, wilayat, Iraq, Syria, war

The Islamic State wilayat in Mesopotamia by H Lavoix, Red (Team) Analysis – background map: Military situation as of 28 April 2015 by Haghal Jagul – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – Click to access larger image

A wilayat is translated variously according to dictionaries. For Lewis (The Political Language of Islam, 1988: 123), it means governorship or province. As these terms may have different political meanings, it is better to keep initially the original meaning and then to explain it through the Islamic State system itself. We shall thus use Lewis explanation according to which the “vali and vilayat are the Turkish pronunciation of the active participle and verbal noun of the Arabic root w-l-y, ‘to be near’ and hence ‘to take charge of’ (Ibid.). By extension wilayat will be “what is taken charge of”, “what is ruled”.

In the second case, we have analyses focusing rather on external wilayat, such as Aaron Zelin’s (ibid., see also a monthly power ranking AQ vs IS and the categories used), actually aiming first at comparing and contrasting the Islamic State wilayat system and Al-Qaeda franchises.

Khorasan sc
Official presentation for the 28 April Video “Targeting apostasy Pakistani army mortar in the Khyber region” Wilayat Khorasan

wilayat Khorasan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Islamic State, ISIS, IS

Here, we thus have, connected to the Islamic State, “Algeria (Wilayat al-Jazair), Libya (Wilayat al-Barqah, Wilayat al-Tarabulus and Wilayat al-Fizan), Sinai (Wilayat Sinai), Saudi Arabia (Wilayat al-Haramayn) and Yemen (Wilayat al-Yaman)”, to which must be added Wilayat Khorasan, i.e. Pakistan and Afghanistan (Ibid.). More recently, Boko Haram would have been renamed the Islamic State’s West Africa province or ISWAP (Adam Whitnall, The Independent, 26 April 2015), which would have become Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah (see Jihadology.net, 31 March 2015).

According to Zelin, “it [The Islamic State] has had a relatively clear agenda and model: fighting locally, instituting limited governance and conducting outreach.” Zelin, however, emphasises that Libya and Sinai are “following the same methodology on the ground and in the media as the Islamic State’s wilayat have in Iraq and Syria” and that “its [The Islamic State] media apparatus took over the media departments of all the local wilayat outside of Mesopotamia”. He lybian arena scthen points out that Libya – as is clear also from the attention given to it in Dabiq, see #5, #6, #7, #8 – has “the most potential to replicate the Islamic State’s model in Mesopotamia if things go right for it,” with three wilayat having been created. Zelin then further underlines similarities that are developed in the governance of these wilayat, while pledges are demanded to be made to the Caliph. As a result, the author brings these wilayat further away from an implicit initial categorisation (external versus internal), on the contrary showing that they are progressively dragged closer to the center. The search for a new framework for analysis may be signaled here by the use of the term Mesopotamia, to break away analytically from the existing international order.

If the approach of separating external wilayat from internal ones is convenient, easy to understand and clear, we may also wonder if it is not potentially unwillingly misleading because failing to fully represent reality. Indeed, if we had two such categories, then why would the Islamic State use the same label for both, i.e. wilayat. Furthermore, if we consider the relatively a-local and a-geographical idea that is included in the notion of ribat, which led us to revise our understanding of what is foreign and what is domestic, from the point of view of the Islamic State (H. Lavoix “Ultimate War“), as well as the aim to establish a Khilafah, thus a unique entity over the whole world, then are we sure we can truly fully categorize differently wilayat located within the Islamic State and those “outside” it?

On the other hand, the Islamic State and its leaders have shown their pragmatism, which was emphasised again by Der Spiegel’s Christoph Reuter “The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State” (18 April 2015). In this thorough analysis of documents originating from Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi aka Haji Bakr, former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force, and mastermind behind the Islamic State’s “subjugation” of part of Syria, Reuter explains the dynamics of infiltration and domination used by the Islamic State leadership, as well as the security apparatus of the wilayat al khayr prier scIslamic State. Among others, this underlines that the initial step towards expansion, for the Islamic State, is not only military but also, and maybe foremost, religious. This aspect of underground taking over was also confirmed as far as the city of Mosul is concerned by Al-Tamimi analysis (“Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province: Part III“, January 23, 2015).

Considering the Islamic State leadership’s pragmatism, it is most likely that real distance from the Khilafah’s center, as well as the position of an external group within the dynamics of revolt against the existing order play a role in the type of organisation and relation to the center for each wilayat. This is what can be deduced from Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi fascinating analysis “The Islamic State and its ‘Sinai Province’” (26 March 2015) to which we shall now turn as he gives us the key to a most probably more adequate understanding of the Islamic State system, as already implicitly present in Zelin’s work.

A global wilayat system articulated around administrative and military strength?

Comparing three pledges of allegiance and the response to them made by the Islamic State, Al-Tamimi explains in each case the answer, and how it is translated in administrative and political terms. If we generalise Al-Tamimi’s understanding, which is also congruent with what Zelin explains, it would come that, in the case of further away (in all understandings of the word) and relatively weak groups considering the area where they operated, such as “Indian jihadi group Tanẓim Ansar al-Tawheed” (pledge made in May 2014), there is no official answer from the Islamic State. The group is thus merely used “for propaganda work” (Ibid.).

Actually, and this point does not question Al-Tamimi reasoning and explanation, if we follow the explanation by the Islamic State as given in Dabiq #5: 24, acceptation of pledges would have been done for all groups (Dabiq‘s list, unfortunately, is generic, ending a list of groups by “and elsewhere”), but declarations of wilayat would be delayed. Only how this delay will end is then explained: case 1 – “appointment or recognition of leadership by the Khalifah for those lands where multiple groups have given bay’at and merged” and case 2 – “establishment of a direct line of communication between the Khilafah and the mujahid leadership of lands who have yet to contact the Islamic State and thus receive information and directives from the Khalifah” (Ibid.).

Then, for groups such as the Gaza-Sinai Jamaʿat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (pledge: November 2014), the Islamic State’s official answer is translated as the creation of a new wilayat, here Wilayat Sinai (now Wilāyat Saynā’, according to various psyops products – updated 16 Feb 2016). Thus, these groups are estimated by the Islamic State’s leadership, according to Al-Tamimi, as being able to “give the IS brand a viable military presence and ultimately a state-like representation in the area in question” with a strong media arm. They are thus transformed into wali as the territory where they operate and ultimately more or less rule becomes a wilayat. The extent to which they will be or remain wali remain to be explored. However, if we refer to Dabiq’s explanation, the wali is specifically considered as “appointed by us [the Islamic State] for it [the declared wilayat]” (Dabiq #5: 25). This, thus, further supports Al-Tamimi thesis according to which the Islamic State must be sure enough of the strength of the main group when declaring a wilayat.

For these specific cases of wilayat, Al-Tamimi also points out that there are not yet there any “significative Islamic State administrative division” or even “proto-state bodies”; what can be found, besides military operations and media is only “‘proto-Hisbah’ (Shariʾa law enforcement)” (Ibid.). Note, as detailed by Al-Tamimi in the case of Sinai, that the challenge for each wilayat, notably at this turning point or early stage, is similar to the triple aim that exists at the larger Islamic State level, and involves notably leading other groups, tribes and factions to pledge allegiance to the Khalif as well as uniting these actors.

Finally, the third case identified by Al-Tamimi is represented by Wilayat al-Barqah (centered around Derna in Libya), where “Islamic State state-like institutions” have been set up, such as “a Diwan al-Hisbah (enforcing Islamic morality), a Diwan al-Taʾaleem (education) and a Diwan al-Awqaf wa al-Masajid (religious outreach and control of mosques),” while military control appears stronger (Ibid.)

To understand at best the Islamic State polity it would thus make sense to take the wilayat as main unit of analysis and then to consider as main characteristics not its geographical location compared with Iraq and Syria, but the degree of Islamic State-like administrative and military control over the population and the territory, while media control would start being implemented as soon as possible, even for the least advanced groups. A tentative map using this system is presented below. Dynamically, it is also interesting to point out that we move from a group and its pledge to a territory with its administrative system, which is, ironically, not without presenting similarities with the move from ruling over followers as in pre-modern systems to the territorially bounded state as in the modern state one. This similarity should, however, not be overstated considering the most probably crucial role of religion, as we shall see more in detail in forthcoming posts.

Islamic State wilayat, IS, ISIS

The wilayat of the Islamic State – 29 April 2015, by H Lavoix for Red (Team) Analysis. In white surrounded by black the most inactive wilayat. In grey those wilayat where fighting is preeminent and only extremely sparse administrative/Sharia’h activity takes place. In black the most administratively advanced wilayat. The classification for Mesopotamia is tentative. Add to the map, wilayat Qawqaz (Caucasus), created on 23 June 2015 on part of the Russian Federation territory (ref: Harleen Gambhir, “ISIS Declares Governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus Region“, ISW, 23 June 2015) – Click to access large image.

Would this approach be also coherent for wilayat that are located within Syria and Iraq? If we turn to Caris and Reynolds who analysed ISIS governance in Syria (ISW, July 2014), they also emphasise the dynamics of first establishing military control then moving to political control through the establishment of governance and state structure, articulated around “administration and Muslim services” (Ibid: 14). Comparing Wilayat al-Khayr (Deir ez-Zour, where military operations are still ongoing, e.g. Ara News, 28 March 2015) to Wilayat al-Raqqa (where the Islamic State’s is seen as strongest and most established), dewan of health al Raqqa scthey further specifically underline that the level of sophistication of governance and services implemented is proportional to the degree of military control, as identified by Al-Tamimi in the cases of Wilayat Barqa and Wilayat Sinai. Thus the model outlined would also fit wilayat located within Iraq and Syria.

We should underline, however, that some wilayat, notably in Syria (namely wilayat al-Lādhiqīyah and wilayat Idlib), do not present any activity since the Islamic State withdrew in March 2014 (Caris and Reynolds, Ibid: 8, 13), but remain, nevertheless, wilayat, probably in prevision of potential future operations. This stresses first the importance of considering the fluidity of war and second the need to apply this framework, as all models, more as guideline than as rules set in stone.

Although we would ideally need a detailed assessment of each wilayat, furthermore monitored over time to fully confirm the validity of our wilayat-based model, as such it is most likely to be sufficiently representative of the reality of the Islamic State to be used as ideal-type framework for understanding how the Islamic State polity functions and to assess the odds of its survival and expansion or, on the contrary decay and disappearance.

With the next posts, we shall further detail the political dynamics, processes and structures of the wilayat system within the Islamic State.

Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.
——-

* A special thanks should be given by all researchers and analysts of the Islamic State to Aaron Zelin for maintaining Jihadology.net, as this allows us all to access Jihadis videos and documents, not only in a single place but also easily, as increasingly access to Islamic State documents seems to be forbidden from some countries.

Similarly the translation work and primary research done by Aymenn Al-Tamimi are immensely useful.
Of course, these thanks do not diminish in any way the interest of both scholars’ analyses.
——-

Bibliography

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad, “Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province: Part III”, Iraq Insurgent Profiles (aymennjawad.org), January 23, 2015.

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad, “The Islamic State and its ‘Sinai Province’”,Tel Aviv Notes: Moshe Dayan Center, 26 March 2015.

Barrett, Richard, The Islamic State, The Soufan Group, November 2014.

Caris, Charles C., & Samuel Reynolds, ISIS governance in Syria, ISW, July 2014.

Lavoix, Helene, “The Islamic State’s Psyops – Ultimate War”, Red (Team) Analysis, 9 February 2015.

Lavoix, Helene, “The Islamic State Psyops – Worlds War”, Red (Team) Analysis, 19 January 2015.

Lewis, Bernard, The Political Language of Islam, The University of Chicago Press, 1988, no. 22, p. 123.

Reuter, Christoph, “The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State”, Der Spiegel, 18 April 2015.

Roggio, Bill, & Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State captures dam, overruns base in western Iraq”, The Long War Journal, 26 April 2015.

Sherlock, Ruth, “Inside the leadership of Islamic State: how the new ‘caliphate’ is run”, The Telegraph, 9 Jul 2014.

Tambiah, Stanley, World Conqueror and World Renouncer: a Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

Zelin, Aaron, “The Islamic State’s model”, The Washington Post, 28 January 2015.
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Beware of Double-Think & Double-Talk

George Orwell’s Double-think
(Novels: 1949 and 1984)

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. He/she knows that he/she is playing tricks with reality; but heshe also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.

Doublethink lies at the very heart of conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete “honesty”. This is the conscious process of telling deliberate lies while genuinely believing them. It entails to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary in doublethink.

Beware of Doublethink and Doubletalk!

Beware of Doublethink…!

George Orwell’s Doublethink
(Novels: 1949 and 1984)

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. He/she knows that he/she is playing tricks with reality; but he/she also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.

Doublethink lies at the very heart of conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete “honesty”. This is the conscious process of telling deliberate lies while genuinely believing them. It entails to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary in doublethink.

Beware of Doublethink and Doubletalk!

Extremism Shapes our Interreligious Dialogue

The second issue that now shapes our relationship is EXTREMISM in our religious traditions and communities. This has become a compelling urgency as war and new militant extremism confront nation states, faith-communities and all peoples of goodwill. There are several slogans and names that try to capture the dangerous realities we live in. There is the famous slogan, “Clash of Civilizations” that Prof. Samuel Huntington coined in the mid 1990’s.It is an attempt that describes the political, ethnic and religious conflicts that have intensified in the post-Cold War era.

By whatever names they go by, they invoke the NAME of God as their rallying/battle cry in complex and many violent struggles and conflicts within that “Arc of Crisis”.

On the other hand, there is the UN initiative that speaks of Alliance of Civilizations where nations, communities and religions forge unity and partnership and new ethical norms to respond to the ills of the present and to prepare and equip the youth or the next generation for new world emerging.

From our own Mindanao experience, we have seen the ugly and violent and virulent face of fanaticism and extremism in the killing of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI – Bishop of the Vicariate of Jolo. His witness of peace and reconciliation and dialogue was a threat to then emerging Islamic Extremism and the fanatics murdered him in public and in broad daylight at the Jolo Plaza in front of his Cathedral in Jolo on February 4, 1997.

Following the martyrdom of Bishop Benjamin, another Benjamin fell victim to the virulent extremism in Sulu. Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI was shot at the back of the Cathedral with his driver on December 28, 2000. His driver survived, but Fr. Inocenio was killed instantly.

Like Bishop Benjamin, Fr. Benjamin was a Missionary to an island in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Sulu Sea – Cagayan de Mapun. There he managed Notre Dame of Cagayan with passion and moving all resources to give quality high school education to the Jama Mapuns “physical marooned” in that remote island.

Then bullet struck again on January 15, 2008, this time in a remote island of Tabawan in the Municipality of South Ubian. Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI who spent his life in serving the poor people of Tabawan both in Notre Dame School and in the public schools was brutally martyred by ‘Extremists’ who came to his residence. Fr. Rey was yet another witness of faith, friendship, and service to the least fortunate.

Other religious congregations have their own share of martyrs as well. The Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped the Claretian priest, Fr. Roel, with other co-workers in Basilan and they were killed brutally. The same with the PIME Fathers with the martyrdom of Fr. Carzeda who was involved in interreligious dialogue in Zamboanga City. The Columbans have Fr. Rufus Halley who gave his all to the people of Malabang and Balabagan – learning the language and befriending all yet he ended up murdered.

And today, there is the raging battle (on the 46th day) of Marawi City in the Southern Philippines that has turned into a nightmare. The extremists belonging to Dawla Islamiyya or Islamic State attacked and killed Christians and burnt Christian institutions and destroyed the Christian icons while shouting “Allahu Akbar”. They are holding Christian hostages – Fr. Teresito Suganob and his parishioners of the Prelature of Marawi and (They) threaten to kill them all if the terrorists are not given “safe passage”. While the extremists are a tiny minority, believers wishing to engage in interreligious dialogue need to draw the line between tolerance and intolerance; between exclusivism and inclusivism; between life and death; and between fellowship or EXTREMISM.

There, you have witnesses who paid dearly for what they believed in and what they stood for. And the price was martyrdom! The witnesses stand tall and their blood albeit spilled continues to give inspiration and life to the people of the place.

And as we reflect and discuss on interreligious dialogue and dialogue between and among peoples of living faiths and peoples of good will, we need to take a clear stance vis-a-vis EXTREMISM both violent and non violent. Extremism in what ever forms is a menace to humanity and the planet. Our stance on this issue shapes the relations and dialogue between and among religions and peoples of goodwill!

Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines
(Part of the talk delivered at Concilium Theological Conference 2017)

The Black and White Pebbles

THE BLACK AND WHITE PEBBLES

Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain.

He said he would forgo the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. So the cunning money-lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white pebble, she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven.

3) If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the money-lender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her?

Careful, analysis and would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose
the money-lender as a cheat.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save
her father from his debt and imprisonment.

Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking. The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking. Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers.

*What would you recommend to the Girl to do?*

(to be continued)

Did you get it…?

Well, here is what she did …..

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

‘Oh, how clumsy of me,’ she said. ‘But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.’

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the money-lender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.

MORAL OF THE STORY

Most complex problems do have a solution. It is only that we don’t attempt to think. Start and end your day with this thought provoking story and have a fruitful life. Have a day filled with positive thoughts and sound decisions.

(Source: Anonymous)

Unity and Fellowship in Diversity…

Unity and Fellowship in Diversity
By Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines

Few years back (0ctober 13th, 2007 – which coincided with the end of Ramadan that year), 138 Muslim Scholars, Academics, Muftis, and Leaders from 43 nations representing the two major branches of the Islamic World (Sunni0 and Shi’a) and other smaller groups and sects wrote a letter to the Pope and other Christian Leaders (now known as “A Common Word’). The title of the letter is NO accident. It is taken from a Sura (Chapter) of the Qur’an – Sura 3: 64 (Sura of the family of Imran) that states: “A Common Word between Us and You”.

The passage is a direct quotation from the prophet to the Christians when he sees that he cannot reach agreement with the Christians and the Qur’an. This is what the prophet said: “Come let us agree on at least one common ground: that we shall worship none but God and that we shall ascribe no partner unto him, and that none shall take other for lords beside God”.

The Letter has three major parts: the 1st is the Love of God in Islam and Love of God as the first and greatest commandment in the Gospel (al-injil); the 2nd is the Love of Neighbor, again, in Islam and in the Gospel; and 3rd is an invitation to come to “a common word between us and you”.

The Letter insistently stresses the unique devotion of the believers to one God. The Love of God In the Islamic Tradition, God is the Lord (Rabb) of the worlds and he is All-Merciful (al-Rahmaan) and All-Compassion (al-Rahim). And in the Gospel (al-injil): ‘God is Love’ (1John 4:8). ‘We love, because God first loved us’ (1 John 4: 19). Yes, our love of god springs from and is nourished by God’s love for us. It is interesting to note that the Love of God is rarely used in the Qur’an but found abundantly in the Islamic mystical traditions (among the Sufi). Usually the Muslims speak of ‘obedience to God’ or ‘adoration of God’.

The other interesting point is the Love of Neighbor. The Letter speaks that love of neighbor is the pinnacle of our duties toward our neighbors. ‘None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself’ the Prophet Muhammad said (pub). And in the New Testament, we similarly read: ‘whoever does not love the neighbor does not know God. (1 John 4: 8). Thus speaking of the ‘Love of God’ and ‘Love of neighbor’ albeit with some nuances is a refreshing novelty in an official and public document with a broadening theological consensus (ijma).

Both Islam and Christianity have beautiful traditions of loving and forgiving enemies. At the end of his life, Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies: ‘forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23: 34). Similarly, the prophet Muhammad (pub) did the same when he was violently rejected and stoned by the people of Ta’if saying: ‘the most virtuous behavior is to engage those who sever relations, to give to those who withhold from you and to forgive those who wrong you’. It is good to note that after the prophet was driven out of Ta’if, it was the Christian slave ‘Addas who went out to the prophet, brought him food, kissed him, and embrace him.

The Letter attempts to re-establish that relation that ought to exist between Christians and Muslims, especially in these dangerous times of extremism and radicalism that kill and persecute in the name of religion and god. This is, in fact, clearly stated in the introduction by recalling that both Christians and Muslims constitute over 55% of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religions, there can be no sustainable and meaningful peace in the world. And when these two major religions come to a common word, peace and prosperity as well as care of the earth become more real and sustainable.

Another beautiful point in the letter is the acknowledgement and re-iteration of the Qur’anic passage that our religious diversities are destined/planned by God. “Had God willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you. So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return and He will then inform ye of that wherein ye differ” (al-Ma’idah 5: 48).

This is truly a refreshing gust of wind in an age of extremism! The Letter invites all to come to a common word, that is, ‘to vie one with another in good works’ as a paradigm of our relationship. It points to the fact that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace and harmony despite their differences and moreover, God wants these differences!

Definitely, the Letter provides a new basis of the relationship between Muslims and Christians. The letter, no doubt, invites all to pursue the common commitment and determination to establish peace among the believers and see beyond their differences the SIGN for those who know (for they are touched by God – inna fi daalika la-aayaatin li-l-‘aalimina), that is, as the Mercy and Compassion of our Lord.

Editor’s Note:
1. At present there are over 380 Muslim Scholars, Academics, Mufti and Leaders who have affixed their signatures to the Letter.
2. All the Letter’s addressees: The Pope and All the other Christian Leaders of the pre-Chalcedonian Christianity and the Churches of Reformation including major Theological & Divinity Schools have positively responded to the Letter.
3. There is a continuing Forum and Dialogue on the “Common Word”. The first one was in Europe, followed by USA, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia.
4. In the Philippines, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID Director Amina Rasul-Bernardo) and the Institute for Autonomy & Governance (IAG Senior Policy Adviser, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI) continue the discourses on the ‘Common Word’.
5. There is a complete publication on the Common Word compiling all the activities and forum on the letter in One Volume on the occasion of its 5th anniversary in 2012. Anyone interested can avail of an e-copy … you need only to google common word…

ME Alliance Turning to a COMEDY..!

Turkey a US proxy and Saudi Friend is expanding its presence in Qatar… Turkey’s presence in Qatar gives Ankara another means of challenging Saudi efforts to dominate the Middle East and lead the Sunni world. 

Saudi Arabia has a positive relationship with Turkey, but Riyadh sees Turkey’s military presence in Qatar as an irritant and a challenge to its authority.

Meanwhile, despite its rift with Saudi Arabia and its growing security relationship with Turkey, Qatar’s military cooperation with the United States remains robust. In no way does Turkey’s military presence in Qatar give Doha the option to switch from its U.S. security guarantor to a Turkish backer. After all, the U.S.-Qatar military partnership goes back many years, and it doesn’t rub Riyadh the wrong way. So even as it receives more support from Turkish forces, Doha is highly unlikely to discard the security and diplomatic strength that the U.S. presence in the country provides.
The US-Saudi Pact is really not a pact against terrorism… it appears more like an anti Iran Alliance!

Cuidate!