Islam, Democracy and Women’s Empowerment


This year’s commemoration of Eid’l Fitr or the Feast of Ramadan coincided with World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. Muslims around the world observe this religious holiday to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, from dawn to sunset. It became a national holiday in the Philippines from 2002.

On the other hand, World Press Freedom Day reminds governments of the need to uphold their commitment to one of the pillars of democracy: freedom of the press. It was the United Nations General Assembly that declared on May 3, 1993 and every year thereafter that the right to freedom of expression must be respected in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 .

The convergence of these religious and secular concepts can be found in the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), established in 2002 amid the global and national challenges facing Filipino Muslims. At that time, the United States and its allies were waging a “war on terror” – with the Philippines being named as the next front after Afghanistan. This new front was understandably centered in Mindanao mainly because of the Abu Sayyaf, a band of renegade fighters with suspected ties to al-Qaeda.

As a result, the “war on terror” fueled a growing global debate on the incompatibility of Islam with democracy, which threatened to undermine democratic space in Muslim societies. This debate accompanied the rise of radical movements among Islamist organizations, culminating in the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

Thus, the PCID was founded by three Filipino Muslim intellectuals who saw the need to articulate the voice of the Bangsamoro: Amina Rasul, who served in the cabinet of President Fidel Ramos; Abrahan Iribani, former spokesperson for the Moro National Liberation Front; and Nasser Marohomsalic, former Commissioner for Human Rights. Its members consist of prominent leaders and thinkers from government, business, academia, the military, and other sectors, with representation from major tribes in Mindanao.

Believing that democracy is enshrined in Islam, they recognized that the current elements of the continuing struggle for true self-determination are hallmarks of a functioning democracy for Filipino Muslims. These elements include just peace, human rights, credible elections, capable self-government and equitable development.

PCID treasurer and board member Yusuf Ledesma said the organization has recently focused on empowering women in war zones through a lively podcast series called “She Talks Peace”. by Mrs. Rasul. In partnership with Women and Gender Institute, PCID empowers participants on governance, economic empowerment, political participation, peacebuilding and rights-based approaches to community development.

Mr. Ledesma said, “Women have a lot of power in the Bangsamoro community. These are often business people from the Greenhills area. He recognizes the empowerment of Bangsamoro women practicing their profession, including his own lawyer and some of the provincial leaders of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

It is therefore no surprise that BARMM Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has endorsed Vice President Leni Robredo as the presidential candidate and flag bearer of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the political party of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). . The UBJP’s endorsement is historically significant as it is the first time it has declared its support for a presidential election.

According to Mr. Ebrahim, the UBJP decided to support Mrs. Robredo, because of the “compatibility of principles, objectives and values”. Together with the President of the MILF, he said: “The political participation of the MILF in the 2022 elections through the UBJP ushers in a new brand of politics among which is our new President Leni Robredo.

Ms. Robredo’s rival for the presidency, former Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., is considered a “deadly enemy of Muslims” based on statements by Noroddin Pananggilan, a member of the armed component of the MILF known as the of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). ). “We can never forget the massacres. If Marcos wins, Bangsamoro loses,” he lamented.

BIAF commanders released a manifesto on April 25 that summarized the sentiment of Moro fighters: “The Marcos years were bloody and brutal for the Muslims and indigenous people of Mindanao, as Marcos Jr. a war of merciless genocide against our people. , killing thousands. The sins of the father are not the sins of the son. But the son who does not see badly what the father has done ends up copying and becomes what the father was.

I hope the majority of Filipino voters realize this when they visit their constituencies on May 9. Vote wisely for the future of our nation!

J. Albert Gamboa is Chief Financial Officer of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Chairman of the Media Affairs Committee of FINEX. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and BusinessWorld. #FinexPhils


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