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REGIONAL ISLAMIC DA`WAH COUNCIL OF SOUTHEAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

The nongovernmental nonprofit organization RISEAP, as its name indicates, operates in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. Formed in 1980-. RISEAP was established in response to a need to bring together Muslims in the area and to coordinate their Islamic da’wah (missionary) activities. While the Mecca-based Rabitat al-Alam al-Islam! (Muslim World League) addressed the general welfare of Muslims worldwide, the new organization was intended to concentrate on this particular part of the world.

Malaysia, through the work of its ex-premier Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organization (PERKIM), was largely responsible for the establishment of RISEAP, although the Rabitat also had a hand in its formation. RISEAP’s headquarters are in

Kuala Lumpur, and the organization has been funded mainly by the host country and Saudi Arabia. RISEAP’s central concern is to forge links among the various voluntary Islamic organizations in the spirit of muaakhat (brotherhood) and to coordinate their policies and actions for the betterment of Muslims in the region. Its responsibilities include supervising da`wah activities, training individuals for Islamic social work, and providing experts to teach Islam. In its efforts to promote international Islamic cooperation, the organization gives special attention to the establishment of mosques and Islamic centers, the publication and distribution of Islamic literature, and related activities.

The 1980s. saw RISEAP actively catering to the needs of Muslims who live in segregated areas or as isolated communities. RISEAP’s objectives, which are cast in broad terms, appeal to national governments in its region, or at least are not in conflict with government interests; this partly explains RISEAP’s success. Over the years it has held da’wah training courses in such countries as Fiji, Australia, Thailand, and Japan. Under its auspices ustadhs or Islamic teachers work in remote regions such as the Solomon Islands to propagate the Muslim faith, or visit distant areas such as Yunnan in the People’s Republic of China to establish contact with Muslim communities there, RISEAP’s Department of Information and Welfare, which publishes the quarterly journal Al-nahdah, has undertaken to translate Islamic books, mainly for use by Muslim children. Although RISEAP concentrates on translating these works into Malay, English, Japanese, and Chinese, it has also set its sights on speakers of Korean, Thai, and Tagalog. One notable achievement was the production of a fiftyminute documentary film called “The Book of Signs,” which attempts to explain modern science from the Qur’anic perspective; based on the work of Dr. Maurice Buccaille, a French scientist, it was widely acclaimed.

Muslim minorities are also a focus of RISEAP’s attention. They are part of an evolving Islamic presence that includes new converts to the faith. In this connection RISEAP has assisted them by providing prayer leaders (imams), religious teachers, and advisors, and by securing places for their children in universities abroad. The Muslim minorities of Papua New Guinea and Tonga are among the beneficiaries of this program. RISEAP has also been instrumental in arranging pilgrimages to Mecca from places such as Fiji, Hong Kong, and Japan. Since 1981 the Malaysian Pilgrims Management and Fund Board (Tabung Haji) has assisted RISEAP by making its facilities available to these potential pilgrims. In 1986 RISEAP established its Women’s Movement, further augmenting its da’wah base. Convinced that the Muslim woman has an equally important role to play in the development of the ummah of the Southeast Asian and Pacific region, the organization’s first president, Tunku Abdul Rahman, envisaged that through the participation of women much could be done to alleviate the suffering of Muslims, particularly of Muslim women themselves. Although the Women’s Movement is guided by the same overall objectives subscribed to by the parent organization, it pays special attention to families, the upbringing of children, and the general welfare of Muslims. Its main concern is with Muslim families in areas where Muslims constitute a minority and find it difficult to cope because of differences in lifestyle, eating habits, and clothing. RISEAP’s role is to help these Muslims emphasize the Islamic basis of life, to facilitate their observance of religious rituals and customs, and to create a hospitable environment for them.

Despite its regional focus, RISEAP has not been insensitive to the problems faced by Muslims in other parts of the world. It has been vociferous in articulating concern over the plight of suffering Muslims whenever possible. This dimension of RISEAP was clearly evident when it called upon other countries to overcome problems faced by Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania. For Al-nahdah has been highlighting the struggle of Muslims all over the world in its attempt to stir Islamic consciousness among its readers. The recent appearance of the RISEAP Newsletter has further bolstered the image of the organization.

In 1988, RISEAP elected a new president, Haji Taib Mahmud. By then RISEAP had grown in strength: the Islamic Association de Macao, the Western Samoan Muslim League, and Pembina Imam Tauhid Islam of Indonesia were admitted as full members, while the Centre of Islamic Studies of Sri Lanka became a new associate member. Overtures have been made to bring the Chinese Muslim Association of the People’s Republic of China into the fold. In 1990. a RISEAP General Assembly was held for the first time outside Malaysia, when members met in Sydney, Australia, for their biennial conference. The gathering was hosted by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. The meeting also saw RISEAP taking up the cause of the Sri Lankan Muslims who were facing persecution at the hands of Tamil separatists. By 1992 RISEAP’s membership had risen to fifty groups.

The RISEAP-PERKIM linkage has always been strong, and it was through the latter’s influence and material help that RISEAP was able to make its presence felt during its early years. Financial support from many Muslim countries enabled RISEAP to operate. In addition to Saudi Arabia, Libya also has been generous in giving aid. Working funds have also been obtained from contributions made by Islamic associations.

RISEAP’s achievement in the field of transnational da’wah has primarily been due to its being a nonpolitical body championing the cause of voluntary Islamic organizations. Its particular brand of Islamic evangelism has struck an accommodation with many Muslim governments. RISEAP’s First General Assembly was attended by representatives from about sixty Islamic organizations from sixteen different countries and territories of the Southeast Asian and Pacific region. Throughout its existence it has dealt with issues that invoke the loyalty of Muslims of all political shades. What has resulted is therefore at least a semblance of mutual cooperation among the countries and territories involved.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ilias Hj. Zaidi. “Muktamar DakwaH Islamiyyah Serantau Bermula Di Kuala Lumpur Hari Ini.” Utusan Melayu, II Januari 1980. Al-nahdah (a quarterly journal of the RISEAP). See vol. 6, no. 3 (1986); vol. 8, nos. 3-4 (1988); and vol. to, nos. 3-4 (1990). RISEAP Newsletter, vol. t, nos. 1-2 (1992).

Wahba. “Dakwah Di Asia Tenggara Akan Lebih Teratur.” Utusan Zaman, 20 Januari 1980.

MOHAMAD ABU BAKAR

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/regional-islamic-dawah-council-southeast-asia-pacific/
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  • writerPosted On: July 14, 2017
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