“WE WANT to show the people that Islam is a beautiful and a peaceful religion. We do not call for war, we do not call for killing.”
This is what Cheema Español, one of the owners of the family-run business Darussalam Bookshop in Roxas, Davao City, which just recently conducted a Muslim Writers Workshop for 15 Muslims from different walks of life.
On September 23, Darussalam Bookshop invited Edfer Fernandez, an author and the Sports for Peace Mindanao executive director, and Maria Gemima Valderrama, a journalism professor at the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), to talk about the basics of newsletter writing to all the participants.
The 15 participants come from different places, not just from Davao City, mostly are professionals with some owning a Muslim school, a host of Mensahe TV, a retired military personnel, a teacher, a college student, and government officials.
What they learned from Fernandez and Valderrama is the writing with a heart and not to be especially conscious of their grammar as the story will flow on its own. They were also taught the proper way of writing through “showing” and not just “telling”.
They were also asked to write essays about anything under the sun they can think of, after which the guest mentors comment on their works especially on their strengths and on how they can improve more.
Español said they have noticed a lot of Da’wah (an act to call others to Islam and to worship Allah) in different forms, be it in television, in radio programs, in lectures, and even face to face Da’wah but there had been very minimal Da’wah through print or newsletters.
“We noticed that Muslim writers are also not organized. When we decided to organize this Muslim Writers Workshop, we realized there are a lot who are interested, there are a lot of writers. It’s just that no one has initiated yet,” Español said.
The main purpose of the workshop is to introduce writing to the participants in order to come up with a monthly newsletter that will contain news about Islam and the Muslims in general since according to Español there had been a lot of good news left unpublished or forgotten. This includes new Halal establishments, Islamic schools that have yet to be featured, and Muslim symposium being conducted in different parts of the country. She said they also plan to include news about the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) as well as their celebrations and special dates such as the Eid’l Adha among others.
This initiative was thought of by Español and her husband Ismael Español after realizing that these kinds of news do not have a single avenue or medium to be featured.
She said they plan to have a trial-publication this October after their works had been copyedited by their guest-mentors. Tentatively, they plan to call their newsletter Inspiration Gazette, which would sound like a general newsletter, not categorizing it to solely Muslim readers. Español said they hope Inspiration Gazette will draw inspiration to everyone even to the non-Muslim readers and would help them understand what real Muslim and Islam is all about.
“In our time today, we can say that the impression of people with Islam and Muslims is negative because of extremist groups. They use Islam. We do not have an avenue to defend ourselves. We want to show that this is the real Islam. This is how good Islam is. God-willing, the newsletter will help us show to the people that Islam is beautiful and a peaceful religion. We do not call for war, we do not call for killing,” she said.