Ulama gather next week to set up national network

Amina Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID),  the organization that has been helping the ulama organize a national umbrella organization in the past two years, explained that if the ulama ratify the charter and elect their governing board, “we will finally have a network which has the potential to be a major vehicle for peace and development work, similar to the Christian religious network.”

“Although we can never be like the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) since we do not have the hierarchy, imagine the impact of such an ulama network in Mindanao.  Plus the fact that we are also bringing in the ulama from Luzon and Visayas, the Balik-Islam, and bring together the aleema (Muslim women religious scholars),” Rasul said.

In last year’s 1st National Summit, 185 ulama from all over the country agreed to collaborate in establishing a national organization. The summit also included 25 aleema.

Rasul said a 2006 Social Weather Station survey indicated that ”Muslims follow their ulama more than Catholics follow their priest.”

“It is important that we harness this potential so that Muslim leaders can have more impact in improving the religious and existential lives of our people,” she said.

Rasul added that the Secretary General of both Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah of Indonesia will grace the summit,  together with an official of Singapore’s Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore). 

“We believe that the organizational experiences of these institutions will help our ulama to develop their own network,” she said.

PCID has been helping organize the ulama in cooperation with the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc. (MKFI), with the support of the British Embassy and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

Before the 1st National Summit in January 2008, a total of four consultative forums on the role of the Ulama in peace and development in Muslim Mindanao and how to enhance that role, were held  in Zamboanga City, Cotabato City, Cagayan de Oro City and Quezon City from June 2007.

“By empowering the Ulama of the P
hilippines, the project hopes to contribute to creating a vibrant civil society and the meaningful participation of the Islamic community, particularly the Muslim religious, in forging peace and strengthening genuine democracy,” the project profile said.

The 1st National Ulama Summit passed an omnibus resolution urging, among others:

           the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front return to the negotiating table (the talks went on an impasse again in December 2007, two months after it broke the September 2006 impasse);

          the government and Moro National Liberation Front  to review the 1996 Final Peace Agreement;

          the President of the Philippines to immediately appoint the Jurisconsult in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence from the ranks of the Ulama, experienced in Shari’ah, who should take the lead in organizing the Office of the Jurisconsult;

          the President of the Philippines to appoint as leader of the Filipino Muslim pilgrims (Amir al-Hajj) during the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, a person from the ranks of the Ulama, the pilgrimage (hajj) being a religious duty incumbent upon Muslims to perform under the guidance of a Muslim religious leader;

          the  National Government through the Department of Justice to review the cases of Muslims, especially Muslim religious leaders who are apprehended by the military and police and who are now languishing in jails and detention centers on charges of violating the Anti-Terror Act, grant them access to legal assistance and in the absence of evidence against them, free them from this arbitrary detention;

          the National Government and concerned local government units to review and stop the Balikatan exercises from taking place in peaceful Muslim areas as such would create an impression of intrusion upon the peace and harmony in these areas;

          the National Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs to use its diplomatic influence in convincing the Israeli government to lift the blockade over Gaza for humanitarian reasons.

Professor Dr. Abdullah Saeed, Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies in the University of Melbourne and Dr. Hisham A. Hellyer, Principal Research Fellow of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, will deliver lectures on “Islam and the Challenges of Modernity” on January 27.

The lectures will be followed by a panel discussion on “The Imperative of Change and Ulama Unity” that Dr. Hamid Barra,  director of the “Empowering the Ulama project”  will moderate.

The panelists are Judge Abo Ali Cali, Aleem Ameroddin Saranggani, Dr. Abulkhair Tarason, Mufti Abdulwahid Inju, Aleem Ahmad Nooh Darping, Mufti Mohammad Yusuf Pasigan,  Aleema Dr. Amena Macabero and Bro. Jamil Almarez.

On January 28, Hji Alami Musa,President of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura and Dr. Anwar Abbas of the Muhammadiyah will deliver a lecture on “Southeast Asian Islam and the Challenges of Modernity.”

In the afternoon,  focus of the lectures will be on human rights and electoral reforms. The
panel includes the new government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, Commission on Elections commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Commission on Human Rights chair Leila de Lima and former Comelec Commissioner Mehol Sadain.

The religious leaders will then have workshops on peace, governance and electoral reforms, economic development/livelihood, Da’wah (the duty to “actively encourage fellow Muslims in the pursuance of greater piety in all aspects of their lives”) , human rights and women’s rights and issues. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)