DAVAO CITY -- Muslim scholars (ulamas) and religious leaders in the country will form an aggrupation whose vision is to become the principal moral force and source of Islamic guidance.

"In today's world, society demands a wider and more participative role for the ulama that they get involved directly in the transformation or reformation process," said Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) lead convenor Amina Rasul.

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Rasul, who attended the 3rd National Ulama Summit and the Regional Conference on Women as Peace Advocates in this city, said the aggrupation of ulamas will be similar to the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

She said the ulama summit, which runs from January 25-29, is just the Moro community's answer for "a more participative role."

The gathering itself is a culmination of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP)’s organizational evolution into a national network of independent ulama leaders and organizations, said NUCP chair Dr. Aboulkhair Tarason.

"Our vision is to become the principal moral force and source of Islamic guidance, a highly credible and internationally recognized ulama organization in the service of the Ummah, and the leader in exemplifying Islamic values towards a just and balanced society," Tarason said.

Hundreds of Muslim religious leaders gathered in this city Monday for the ulama summit, which assembled participating members of the NUCP -- the largest group of independent ulama organizations in the country with nearly 200 ulama-led organizations.

The conference of Muslim women leaders gathered 160 aleemat, Islamic women scholars, and other women leaders who participated in local capacity building workshops.

The ulama summit was organized by the PCID, while the conference of Muslim women leaders, which runs from January 24 to 27, was arranged by the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc. (MKFI) and PCID. Both are held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in this city.

Reports said the board of trustees of NUCP will be elected by the end of the summit.

The two assemblies are considered landmark events, as the ulama has never organized into a religious collective or religious network before similar to the CBCP, and the conference has never before gathered such huge number with a focus on exchanging pointers with women leaders from Southeast Asian countries on empowering women.

"This is also our way of strengthening our condemnation of crimes that has put the Muslim community in the media eye. (We want it clear) that we condemn the Maguindanao massacre, kidnappings. Our theme is to have 'a common word toward a common peace' at iisa kami para sa kapayapaan, katahimikan, at kaunlaran ng ating bayan," Tarason said Monday.

MKFI chair and former senator Dr. Santanina Rasul, for her part, said the regional conference provided training on conflict prevention and peacemaking, as well as civic education.

"This will allow them to participate meaningfully in the fashioning of peace, democracy and development within their own communities. It also provides a venue for the aleemat to strengthen networks between themselves, equally gaining from sharing experiences," Rasul said.

She described the gathering as “almost like a national conference” with the groups attending the event representing the women from the National Capital Region, East Visayas, and all Mindanao provinces.

Earlier reports said the summit will be attended by distinguished international scholars, such as the representative of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, one of the most influential Islamic scholars and clerics in the world, as well as senior officials of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the biggest Muslim religious organizations in the world. (JCZ/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)