Thursday, 6 November 2008

Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia-Pacific

Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia-Pacific Region

Dr. Mozammel Haque

SINGAPORE: The Three-day Seminar on the theme of “Networking For Development: Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia and the Pacific Region” organized by the Muslim Missionary Society Singapore (Jamiyah Singapore) in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and Qatar Charity was held at Jamiyah from 15-17th of October 2008.

A large number of diplomats and diplomatic personnel and representatives of major religions in the country, journalists and Muslim leaders and leaders from other faith organizations and individuals attended the opening ceremony in addition to delegates of cultural centres and Islamic organizations from Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myannar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Around 50 delegates and observers representing NGOs from 20 countries from Asia and the Pacific Region participated in this Seminar. There were seven sessions besides the opening and concluding sessions.

The opening ceremony of the three-day Seminar started with recitation from the verses of the Holy Qur’an and welcoming address by the President of Jamiyah Dawah Islamiyah Singapore, Mr. Abu Bakar Mohyeddin who touched on the policy of Jamiyah Singapore in enhancing harmony and dialogue by inviting other religions and races in the country.

In his welcome address, Haji Sheikh Abu Bakar Mohyeddin said, “Imams play an important role in society, especially in promoting greater interaction amongst mosques, the community and the general public for the objective of promoting moderation, peace and harmony. We are happy that Qatar Charity is also supporting us in the Training Workshop for Imams from the region concurrently with this Seminar.”

“Today mankind is facing new challenges both in the economic and social fronts. While we have succeeded in harnessing science and technology for progress and higher standards of life, much more can be done for durable peace and harmony. In this regard we are working continually to strengthen the infusion of the correct values in our society,” said the President of Jamiyah Singapore.

Haji Sheikh Mohyeddin also said, “All religions have one perfect theme in common: that is to work for peace and tranquility, in every area of human activity and consciousness. We cannot allow deviationists to disrupt the noble purpose of all religions. Consequently due to the urgency of the call for durable peace, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI have met to discuss this crucial need and well-publicized initiative have begun.”

He also said, “We are happy to hold this three day seminar to discuss positively the prospects of Muslim NGOs pooling resources and expertise for the welfare and development of the people in our respective areas of work.”

The keynote address was delivered by the guest of honour, the Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. K. Shanmugam who confirmed Singapore’s policy in prioritizing the co-existence and peace among races and religions in Singapore.

It was followed by ISESCO address delivered by Dr. Abdelillah Benarafa who emphasized the importance of adhering to the values of Islam, moderation, wisdom, harmony and cooperation with all races, faiths and civilizations. It also called upon those working in the cultural field to give their utmost commitment towards reinforcing civilizational identity of Muslims in the midst of world challenges. It is the responsibility of those involved in cultural work to put in perspective the correct image of Islam and Muslims, by emphasizing the Islamic reference which highlights the importance of principles especially in strengthening the values of co-existence, harmony and peace among various civilizations.

Dr. Benarafa also called upon the leaders of the cultural centres to urgently explain correctly to the Muslim Ummah values and culture of broad-mindedness in Islamic civilization and to introduce the real teachings of Islam and Muslims.

Country papers on the following countries: Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Sri Lanka Timor Leste, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Singapore were presented. Besides these, Dr. Bibi Jan, President of Singapore May Teachers Union presented a paper on “Education and Development of the Muslim Ummah: Role of Muslim NGOs”; Dr. Faisal Yahya, Visiting Fellow Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) Singapore presented a paper on “Economic Development of the Muslim Ummah: Role of Muslim NGOs”.

Dr. Isa Hassan, Executive Director (Education and Welfare), Jamiyah Singapore also presented a paper on “Capacity Building for Muslim NGOs”; Mr. Mohd Anuar Yusop, Executive Director, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore presented a paper on “Networking and Muslim NGOs: Issues and Challenges”; Mr. H. M. Saleem, Executive Secretary, Jamiyah Singapore presented a paper on “Touch and Harmony: Jamiyah’s Initiative for promoting Inter-racial and Inter-faith Harmony” and Dr. Mozammel Haque, Director General, World Muslim Congress, President’s Office; Jeddah, presented a paper on “The Muslim Community in Britain: An Overview”.

At the end of the three-day discussions and deliberations, the Seminar called for cultural and Islamic organizations “to project the moderate images and the tolerance of Islam and to correct its distorted images through the media, school book/curriculum and various forums and gatherings.”

The Seminar also resolved to “confirm the urgency of conducting dialogue among other faith followers in order to create understanding and cooperation for the sake of global peace based on humanity brotherhood and to make the culture of peace as theory and way in interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

The Seminar also resolved to “prepare database for Muslim competencies in the West and the world and also called upon the leaders of cultural centres and Islamic organizations to take part in circulating these form of Muslim competencies.”

The Seminar also resolved “to enhance the existing understanding and cooperation by adopting a pro-active approach towards empowering the Muslim Community through the participating NGO’s in principally Muslim minority countries through the sharing of resources, information, databases and the organizing of developmental activities that cater to the changing needs of time.”

The Seminar also resolved to “continue focusing on life-long balanced education as a conduit in elevating the Muslim Ummah towards uplifting their status as Ummatan Wasatan, the middle and moderating people.”

The participating NGOs were very enthusiastic and highly motivated at the need to collaborate and network amongst themselves to develop the resources endowed upon them by Almighty Allah and support the resolutions passed and endeavour to enhance that action plans decided upon are conscientiously implemented.

In view of the level of interest shown by the NGO’s and the pressing need for actions, Jamiyah Singapore as a coordinating body in cooperation with ISESCO announced that an initiative to collaborate with the NGO’s from the following countries in implementing developmental programmes that will bring about benefits to the Muslim Ummah in particular and humanity in general will be implemented promptly.

Muslim leaders of Timor Leste, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia will work together, as a team, in ensuring that the project is run successfully with the support of ISESCO and the collaboration of Jamiyah Singapore.

Jamiyah Singapore also expressed its readiness to support justifiable projects including the IMAM Training Program which is aimed at ensuring that the standard and quality of our imams are uplifted to become more competent, committed, comprehensive, cohesive and complete in serving the Muslim Ummah.

Abu Bakar Mohyeddin, President of Jamiyah Singapore said that Jamiyah Singapore has decided to take one more step by working out specific community need based projects in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Nepal in the near future in cooperation with ISESCO and requested Dr. Benarafa to strongly recommend to Dr. Abdelaziz Othman Altwiajri, Director General of ISESCO to support this initiative with the much needed financial support.

ISESCO thanked the President of Jamiyah Singapore, Tuan Haji Abu Bakar Mohyeddin for its readiness to support justifiable projects including the IMAM Training Program and for his dedication in advancing the interest of the Muslim Ummah and humanity and his tireless efforts to look at new initiatives in strengthening the position of the Muslims in the world.

The Seminar also expressed its sincere thanks to the Qatar charity for the support that they have extended to the Imam Training Program that take place in Singapore.

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