Ulama group seeks Obama's support for Mindanao peace

The letter, dated January 29, was passed by the Ulama during the 2nd National Ulama Summit at the Imperial Palace Suites in Quezon City where they ratified the charter for a national network of major ulama organizations – National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP).

After congratulating Obama for being the “first American President with personal ties to the Islamic world, Asia and Africa,” the Ulama said they appreciated the American president’s statement assuring the Muslim world of a "new way forward, based on mutual respect and mutual interest."

“We also take note with interest of Your Excellency's description of America as ‘a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.’ And so in the spirit of your recent pronouncement that ‘America will start by listening, not dictating,’  the Muslims in the Philippines, with equal vigor and the Muslims in the Philippines, with equal vigor and commitment to peace and the dignity of humanity, hereby reach out across the ocean to take your outstretched hand and seek to renew and strengthen our friendship with America and the American people,” the Ulama said.

They wrote a six-point appeal “with goodwill and universal peace as our primary aim,” calling on Obama to:

          engage the Muslim world, particularly the ulama sector, through dialogue and cooperation that will benefit our communities and humanity;

          address the root cause of the problem in the Middle East by recognizing the right of the Palestinians to their homeland and a state of their own;

          vigorously support the peace process in Mindanao to end the 40-year armed conflict which has resulted in 600,000 displaced and hundreds killed since August 2008, and work to bring the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) back to the negotiating table as soon as possible;

          support the legitimate and inherent right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination:

          support the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government and;

          extend massive relief and rehabilitation assistance to internally displaced persons in Mindanao, particularly in conflict-affected areas, through socio-economic development programs that will bring prosperity and dignity to our people.”

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, said before the Summit that if the Ulama organized itself, “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.”

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

“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.

The Ulama elected 15 members to the interim board of trustees of the NUCP.

The group is chaired by Dr. Abhoulkhair Tarason from Basilan with Dr. Hamid Barra from Marawi City  as Vice Chair.

The board members are Sulu Mufti Sharif Jul Asiri Abirin, Tawi-Tawi Mufti Abdulwahid Inju, Aleem Abdul Majid Said from Cebu, Aleem Ahmad Darping Nooh from Davao, Dr. Abdussalam Disomimba from Lanao del Norte, Prof. Moner Bajunaid from General Santos City (SecGen), Shari'a Court Judge Aboali Cali from Marawi City, Aleem Jaafar Ali from Cotabato City, Aleem Abdulhadi Daguit from Manila, Bro. Hassan Garcia from the Balik Islam community, Ustadza Albaya Badrodin and Aleema Khadijah Mutilan from the Aleemat (Muslim women religious scholars) and Prof. Moner Bajunaid of General Santos City, as secretary-general.

“Former Senator Santanina Rasul, Chair of MKFI and Advisor of the PCID, was given the honor of occupying the 15th seat.  She passed on the seat to Ustadz Esmail Ebrahim, a convenor of PCID.  Since the seat is for PCID, the PCID can decide who sits – depending on the need of the particular board meeting,” Amina Rasul said.  (MindaNews)