Expressing my thoughts

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


LAST week's article on "The Challenge to be a Muslim Filipino and a Bangsamoro Muslim" received several feedback from friends in the Muslim communities in different parts of Mindanao. Good and not so good reactions were sent to my email. I will try to give my response to these reactions by simply expressing my thoughts.

My article last week was an attempt to discuss the "big elephant" in the room. The big elephant refers to the realities in the ground. The reality is that we are diverse. We have to recognize our diversity and find ways where we can live peacefully with one another. What are the challenges of Muslims today in our country?

In brief, we can summarize these challenges in to three. They are a. transcending the notion that we are a nation living in an endless tyranny; b. ensuring the non-dilution of indigenous expressions of the Islamic faith; and, c. upgrading madrasah education.

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Transcending beyond the notion of living in an endless tyranny as a people. How far back should we look in our history to highlight the fact that we were oppressed? How long shall we continue to believe that we are still oppressed? How do we define oppression in the first place?

We are given our basic rights as a citizen of this country. We enjoy the same freedom as every Filipinos enjoys. The right to education, the right of suffrage, the right to freely express our speech and thoughts are best examples of these rights. We are also enjoying our freedom of abode. All these and other rights, we enjoy as citizens. As we slowly unfold the Bangsamoro political entity, how do we then ensure that we will enjoy freedom as we have today?

But as we enjoy these rights, we also must look into our responsibilities as a citizen not only to this country but to our people as well. We have to be responsible for ourselves, not merely depending on what the government, local or national, can give to us. One of the simplest things we can do is to teach ourselves to know better about our faith and the socio political landscape so that we can do even better.

Non dilution of our indigenous identities and expression of the Islamic faith. As a member of the Southeast Asian nations, we have long practiced certain expressions of the Islamic faith that is different from that of the Middles East. These practices are also in accordance to the tenet of Islam and teachings and practice of the Prophet (SAW).

One concrete example is the rights and roles of women in Islam. Our indigenous culture has placed women in equal status with men. In some Southeast Asian culture, women enjoy the same rights as men even though they are under their protection. Comparing the freedom and rights currently enjoyed by women from the Middle Eastern countries, their South East Asian counterparts are accorded and enjoy more.

Madrasah Education

The current status of our madrasah or madaris in our communities is far below than the approved national education standards. Sad as it is but most of the graduates cannot pass the entrance exams of the different colleges and universities which will enable them to gain their degrees. Even if these students come from the integrated madrasah which incorporates the required DepEd subjects, i.e., English, Math, Science.

My view coming from the academe, the madrasah can best develop their students if they employ a combination of the Islamic education and western education. Taking the good parts of the western educational system into the madrasah system may better prepare and equip our students to become more competitive in their education and become active members of our society and good citizens.

I am Muslim. I am an Iranun from Maguindanao, a resident of the upcoming Bangsamoro political entity, and a Filipino citizen of this Republic. I am very particular of these identities because they help me define who I am and the community where I belong. As a Muslim, I believe in the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Articles of Faith.

I do not want to dwell in the debates of Sunni and Shi'a narratives. I am more interested in understanding the present context of being a Filipino Muslim and a Bangsa Moro Muslim of Mindanao, because this will define our future in Mindanao and in the Southeast Asian context.

Lastly, I strongly believe that Islam is a religion based upon surrender (taslim) to the Will of the Allah. Islam is a religion of subservience to Allah, the Supreme Reality, from whom all orders of reality issue forth, and to whom everything returns, for Allah is the Origin, Creator, Ruler, Sustainer and End of the universe. In the process of this surrendering to Allah's will, we also gain peace or salam by virtue of this very act of surrender or taslim.

Seyyed Hossein Nassr, a Muslim scholar based in Georgetown University in Washington DC, views Islam as "nothing other than living according to the Will of Allah in order to gain peace in this world and felicity in the world to come. Islam envisages religion as not just a part of life but as the whole of it. In fact, al-islam or al-din as Islam sees itself, is life itself and it incorporates what we do, what we make, what we think and what we feel as well as addresses the question of where we come from and where we are going. That is why the Islamic religion always uses the term al-din as embracing all the facets of human life, leaving nothing outside its dominion."

With this realization, our personal journey with our faith and connection with Allah must have thorough process of discernment. We need to know the present context of Islam and understand the realities in the ground. This I believe will help us define the common good of our people living in a pluralistic society like Mindanao.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 28, 2014.

Opinion

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