His Excellencies, Esteemed Moderator, Delegates, Brothers and Sisters Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuho. First of all, I thank Allah swt for giving me the chance to speak before this august body. Thank you, Mr. Honourable Moderator for the recognition. Alhamdullilah, before we end this afternoon session, finally, we have a woman speaking before you.
I am representing the Minority Muslims in the Philippines known as the Bangsamoro people which constitute around 11% of the entire population, roughly 12 Million Muslims in a Christian dominated country in Southeast Asia. Islam predates Christianity. The coming of Islam to the Philippines was part of the larger Islamization process that took place in Southeast Asia brought about by the Arab traders and Missionaries in the early 13th Century. Under the Sultanate of Sulu, Muslims used to be in control of some trade routes in Southeast Asia. We had existing institutions like the Agama Court and Madrasah education. However, the coming of the colonizers in the early quarter of 15th Century disrupted the lives of the Bangsamoro people. Just like other Muslim Minorities in other Countries, Muslims in the Philippines are facing problems like negative-stereotyping, discrimination and poor access of basic social services. And among the minorities, we have the longest struggle since colonial period. During the post-independence period, and thereafter, the Bangsamoro Struggle took a different direction from resisting colonial domination to a struggle for the right to self – determination (RSD). This is our current situation.
Despite being a minority in this country, in education, we have an Institute of Islamic Studies which is part of the University of the Philippines, the leading and number 1 University in the Country. Your Excellencies just imagine this blessing from Allah (swt). With the University of the Philippines – Institute of Islamic Studies, we are responding to the challenges faced by the Muslims in the Philippines through our three-fold functions, namely: 1. Instruction 2. Research and Publication 3. Community Extension Services
We offer Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies. We are the only MA granting academic unit in Metro Manila and the entire Island of Luzon. The Institute of Islamic Studies aims to provide university students both Muslims and non-Muslims an opportunity to participate more fully in national life and development. More specifically, it intends to create deeper understanding and more rapport between the Muslims of the Philippines and the whole community of the University of the Philippines system. Moreover, it aims to shed light on certain portions of Philippine history and to place in proper perspective the role of the Islamic cultural heritage in shaping the Philippines and neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. It is envisioned that the institute will serve as a meeting place for scholars interested in Islamic history and culture from Asia and other parts of the world.
On Research, the UP Institute of Islamic Studies focuses on four concentrations: (1) Islamic Thought and Civilization, (2) International Relations (Siyar) of the Ummah, (3) History and Society of Muslims in the Philippines, and (4) Islamic Law (specifically, Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines). These research areas complemented the major MA programs, theses, academic activities, and scholarly publications of the institute.
The University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies Program (CIDS-ISP) on Islamic Studies concentrate on three (3) research components:
‘Hikma’ is an Arabic word means ‘wisdom’ and inspired by the HIKMA Research of Muslim academics and students based in the University of Sydney. This is a research group of Filipino academics concentrating on the study and research on Islam, its intellectual traditions, production of knowledge, and relations and critical engagements to Western sciences, particularly Euro-American modernity. Research projects and publications may include, but not limited to: (1) intellectual exchanges between Muslim and Western scholars, e.g. Ibn Rushd (1126-98) and his Grand Commentary’s influence on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (1227-74) and Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Nizam al-Mulk’s (1018-92) Siyasat Nama which inspired Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) to pen his book, The Prince, or Ibn Khaldun’s (1332-1406) Muqaddimah and his contribution to contemporary sociology, among others; (2) Filipino Muslim responses and adaptation to modernity and nation-state system; (3) Filipino communities (e.g. OFWs) in Muslim majority countries; (4) DepEd’s Madrasah Education program, e.g. the ALIVE program which stands for Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education; (5) comparison of Muslim academics trained in Western (secular) and Middle East educational institutions: (6) Nusantara or Southeast Asian Islam; (7) gender equity; (8) women and children’s rights; (9) Muslim civilizational languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Bahasa, Sanskrit, Spanish, Moro languages, etc.
PD 1083 component shall serve as the consultative body of counselors rendering legal opinions, in accordance to this Code and Philippine laws, to Filipino Muslims relating to customs, settlement of disputes, personal status, marriage and divorce, matrimonial and family relations, succession and inheritance, and property relations between spouses. An online repository and primer (textbook) of verified counselors and judicial courts nationwide shall be put in place. Research projects and publications may include, but not limited to: (1) Maqasid al-Shari’ah or higher objectives of Islamic law; (2) comparison between Moro customary laws (these are mores, folklores, and rituals) and Presidential Decree 1083; (3) Halal Guide, a written guide for Filipino Muslims, in accordance to preferred Muslim jurisprudence, legal system and local customs, in relation to permissible food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials. It is envisioned to put up a ‘Halal Research Center’ collaborated by UP-IIS, National Commission of Muslim Filipinos, and related government agencies; (4) Muslim Jurisprudent-compliant Financial system, a reference guide of assisting Filipino Muslims on banking and financing activities that comply to their preferred Muslim jurisprudence, for example, the Al-Amanah Islamic Bank; (5) a study of Filipino Muslim converts, commonly known as Balik Islam, and their role and contribution to nation-building.
Bangsamoro is composed of Muslim minority groups that are predominantly located in Southern Philippines (i.e. Mindanao). It has distinct milieu of history, traditions, mores, knowledge system and socio-political environments guided by their normative and cultural interpretations (mostly imported from the Middle East) of Islam. The Moro peoples are continuously shaped by their Islamic faith, customs, social identities, laws, political affiliations and struggles, interactions with non-Muslims, decades-long negotiations with the national government, operations and implementation of the ARMM, and contemporary international image of Islam mostly represented by Middle Eastern countries. They faced utmost challenges of poverty, lack of educational support, non-existing political leadership and will (i.e. initiative or determination), graft and corruptions of their political elites, scarcity of economic resources, crimes (particularly the business of kidnapping), rampant illegal drugs, warring factions of dominant clans (or rido), and the incessant human, environmental and territorial conflicts including insurgencies from disparate armed groups. Despite these challenges, most are hopeful for a progressive society imbibed with their cultural expressions and Islamic orientation. They aspired for asymmetrical political representation in the national government (e.g. through BBL or federalism), aimed to receive fair and equitable distribution of wealth including educational, health and social services, and hoped to attain that elusive ‘peace’ in order to have prosperous livelihood and better future for succeeding generations. However, there are still some elements that cling to secession for they believed that it is only through full independence and freedom that they can establish a just Moro society. Research projects and publications may include, but not limited to: (1) historical injustice on the Moro peoples; (2) intercommunal cooperation and peaceful coexistence among Lumads, Muslims, and Christians in Mindanao; (3) research on deradicalization of radicalized/extremist Moro sectors, groups and youths; (4) research on compassion, religious pluralism, multiculturalism, and inter/intra-faith dialogues; (5) migrant communities and their politico-social and spiritual dynamics; (6) entrepreneurship and economic development; (7) sense of family cohesiveness; (8) Moro political struggles.
For the UP-IIS publication, the International Journal of Islam in Asia and the Islam in Southeast Asia book series will publish academic and policy works that concentrate on theoretical, methodological, empirical, religious, spiritual, and critical studies of Islam, including mundane praxes and day-to-day realities of Muslims (and their relations to non-Muslims) in Southeast Asia. It welcomes theoretical, conceptual, comparative, and issue-based research on historical and contemporary Southeast Asian Muslim communities, which are then examined and analysed using paradigmatic lenses of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence (law), mysticism, and related social sciences. The international academic journal and book series encourage interdisciplinarity and eclectic contributions from (early, mid-career, and senior) scholars and practitioners (e.g. preachers, spiritual/religious leaders, and policy makers) to facilitate a holistic approach towards the study of Islam and of Muslim societies in the region.
For our Extension Services, we are very active in interfaith activities, peace building efforts and engagement in varied community programs. Our Faculty members and students are active in activities that promote tolerance, respect and understanding among people of different faiths. In response to local and international issues affecting Islam and Muslims, the Institute has hosted varied forums responsive to the challenges faced by the Muslims. Also since 2015, the Institute has been an implementing institutional partner of the Diyanet Vakfi Iftar program. The Diyanet Iftar program has brought together UP Muslim community, Non-Muslim visitors and neighbouring Muslim communities in appreciating the occasion of Ramadan and its blessings.
We produced outstanding graduates who are now members of the Diplomatic Corp, for instance, the Philippine Ambassador to Qatar is a proud alumnus of the Institute. Some of our graduates are now employed in both government and non-government agencies occupying high positions. Majority of our Alumni returned to their respective provinces and served as Chancellor, Deans and Faculty members in their respective Universities in Mindanao. We have alumni who are now in the forefront of peace-building efforts, Madrasah education and human rights advocates. We also produced Shariah Counsellors/Lawyers and the recent Shari’ah Bar Examination 2018 results put the Institute among the top performing Institutions in the country.
Your Excellencies amidst our success in the field of education, we have an urgent problem. We are housed in one of the oldest buildings in the University. Every day, we are bothered by the safety of our Faculty members, staff, students and visitors of the Institute as the recent building structural test showed that the building is no longer safe for occupancy. There is no descent Musallah for our constituents.
The Institute is the face of Islam in the University and entire country. But our situation (building and facilities) does not speak of the grandeur and beauty of Islam. We appeal to our Brothers and Sisters especially to His Excellency President of the Ministry of Religious Affairs ( Diyanet vakfi) Dr. Ali Erbas to help us in our problem. Your Excellency, apart from participating in this Summit, I also have another mission that is to personally hand in to you the letter of the Honourable President of the University of the Philippines Atty. Danilo L. Concepcion. This letter and other documents reflect our sincerity in reviving our cooperation and future collaborations on productive activities and programs between your prestigious Institution and the University of the Philippines.
Please be our partner in improving the Institute of Islamic Studies. We play very vital role in the development of the Muslim Ummah as we continue to teach the true teachings of Islam. Education liberates us from the bondage of ignorance, anti-dote to poverty and prevent the rise of radicalism among our youth. We are an indispensable partner of the government and the Muslim Ummah (community) in promoting peace and development geared towards the healing and nation-building.
The Muslim World Minorities Summit is organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (Diyanet Vakfi) in Istanbul, Turkey. It was participated by more than 200 religious leaders, scholars and members of non-government organisations representing 115 countries all over the world. Philippines was represented by the Dean of UP Institute of Islamic Studies and Dr. Mohd Yacob, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA). The opening ceremony of the program was graced by President H.E. Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN and Diyanet President Dr. Ali Erbas and other prominent officials.
President Erdogan stressed that the purpose of the Summit was to draw attention from the Muslim world leaders regarding the sad plight of Muslim minorities all over the world. He noted the deplorable conditions of Rohingya Muslims, Palestinians, African Muslims and other minorities like those in Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines. He calls for the Unity of the Muslim world leaders in addressing the plight of the oppressed Muslims. A true Muslim cannot isolate himself from what is happening to the Muslim minorities who have been killed and neglected like the Rohingya Muslims and the innocent children in Gaza and Syria. Muslims must engage themselves in productive discourses and adopt the principle of consultation as mentioned in the Holy Quran. Muslims must remind themselves that Shahadah stands for the membership of every individual Muslim to the larger Muslim Ummah. Muslims must take care of the needs of his fellow Muslim. “You are not a true Muslim if it does not bother you the hunger of another Muslim,” he stressed.
Honourable Dr. Ali Erbas, President of Diyanet Vakfi reminded Muslims to be vigilant, most of our enemies are from within. He emphasised the role of some terrorists groups who deliberately destroyed Islam through their violent actions. He also emphasised the need to implement the teachings of the Holy Quran by becoming better and practicing Muslims and to affirm that Islam is a religion of Peace.