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The conference will open with an address by His Excellency former President Fidel Ramos on The Role of Democracy and Development in Addressing Radicalization.
The event will likewise include ribbon-cutting ceremonies for The Exhibitions: World Religions-Universal Peace-Global Ethic and the launch of two books by the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy and KAS, Broken Peace: Assessing the Implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement, and The Proceedings of the Radicalization of Muslim Communities International Conference.
Former President Fidel Ramos graced the opening dinner for the Southeast-Asian Forum on Islam and Democracy last December 10, 2007, organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) together with the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and the Magbassa Kita Foundation (MKFI) and which brought together a delegation of Muslim experts, scholars, advocates and leaders from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines to exchange views and share experiences on Islam and Democracy.
Ramos stressed that the regional forum was a vital step towards addressing concerns on issues such as security, human rights and democracy in the Southeast Asian region. According to Ramos, it has to be clarified that “Southeast Asia is not a hotbed of terrorism nor is the region teetering on the brink of anarchy and sectarian violence as is sometimes suggested”. He added that political will, democratization, and regional strategies would be the most effective strategies in addressing the problems in the region, and urged the strengthening of inter-faith cooperation and networks of democracy advocates in the region.
The forum also sought to address the pervading image of terrorism and extremism in Islam; Former Senator Santanina Rasul, chairman of MKFI, noted that Islamic extremism have taken the spotlight in the media, as opposed to the other facets of the Muslim faith, and remarked, “Islam is often associated today with terrorism or violence. This is not a true reflection of Islamic values. Muslims, particularly Muslims in Southeast Asia, firmly believe in human rights, tolerance, and equality, as do the majority of Muslims in the world.”
Klaus Preschle, country representative of KAS, also added, “ ...the Muslim mainstream in Southeast Asia can be described as moderate, or, as the participants of the conference would prefer to say, progressive. However, extremist movements also need to be taken seriously,” and urged the forging of stronger alliances between Muslim civil society groups in the region to further efforts of improving the image of Islam.
The Southeast Asian region is home to the largest Muslim community in the world with more than 200 million adherents of Islam. The Philippines alone hosts a large Muslim minority concentrated in Mindanao, standing at 5% of the Filipino population. The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in the Philippines has been working with Muslim civil society groups such as the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy in its effort towards developing Muslim civil society, promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding, and the further deepening of democracy in the Philippines.
The evening was also the final stop of the exhibition, World Religions, Universal Peace, Global Ethic, which toured certain cities in the Philippines in December. The evening also included the book launching of KAS publications, BROKEN PEACE: Assessing the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement, which was authored by PCID lead convenor Amina Rasul, and conference proceedings from the KAS conference “Radicalization of Muslim Communities in Southeast Asia” in 2005.