ABU DHABI // Two prominent Filipino Muslim preachers hope to spread Islam’s message of peace and unity at a community lecture in Dubai at the weekend.
Omar Penalber, 59, and Nuh Caparino, 48, both from Cavite City, were invited to speak at the 13th Ramadan Forum, which began last Thursday, by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
It is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed, the chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation.
On Saturday, Mr Penalber and Mr Caparino will hold a joint lecture in Tagalog on “Islam: Past, Present and Future” at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
Other lectures will be conducted in Arabic, English, Urdu, Malayalam and Bengali.
Both scholars, who were Christians, will discuss the history of Islam in the Philippines, Islam as the country’s fastest-growing religion, and how they envision Islam’s future in the Philippines.
“I will deliver the same message of Islam: to worship the one and only true God and to prepare for the afterlife,” said Mr Penalber, who is visiting the UAE for the fourth time.
“I encourage those attending to be liberal and open-minded and to listen intently to the message and teachings of Islam.”
Last year, 27 Filipinos embraced Islam after a lecture delivered by Filipino preacher Rashid Indasan. Twenty-four of them were women.
Converts in the Philippines are popularly known as “Balik Islam”, or returnees to Islam. They believe that Filipinos were Muslims before the Spanish colonisers imposed Catholicism on the country. Mr Penalber, who converted to Islam in 1988, is the president of an Islamic centre in Dasmarinas, Cavite, 30 kilometres south of Manila.
He visits different parts of the Philippines to deliver lectures at universities, public places and family gatherings. “Every month, about 100 Filipinos embrace Islam in our centre,” he said. “We hope that the Philippines will become a predominantly Muslim country.”
A Muslim convert since 1994, Mr Caparino set up an Islamic centre in Cavite two years ago. He aims to convey the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims.
“My talk will focus on the three main teachings of the Prophets: to invite people to pray to the one and only true God, invite them to emulate one God and to remind them about the afterlife,” he said.
“We may not admit it but an invisible wall exists between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“We are all searching for peace. But where is peace in our homeland? If we’ve got mutual respect for one another, we’ll achieve peace and unity. Personally, I respect all religions. We will present the teachings of Islam and hope we could somehow remove that barrier.”
The 12 days of community lectures will end on Monday. The sessions will be led by well-known speakers and scholars, who will discuss the teachings of Islam and various social and religious issues.
The main objective was to promote a greater understanding of Islamic values and deep-rooted Ramadan traditions among Muslim and non-Muslim communities living in Dubai, said Hamad bin Mejren, the executive director of business tourism at DTCM and the general coordinator of the Ramadan Forum.
Everyone is welcome to attend the free lectures, which start at 10.40pm at the Zabeel Hall of the Dubai World Trade Centre.
There will be live translations of Arabic lectures into English.
For more details and to register, visit www.almultaqa.ae. Alternatively, call 04 282 1111 or 050 213 6555.