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Regional Islamic Daʿwah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP)

By:
Mohamad Abu Bakar, Fred R. von der Mehden
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Regional Islamic Daʿwah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP)

The nongovernmental nonprofit organization RISEAP, as its name indicates, operates primarily 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 daʿwah (missionary) activities. While the Mecca-based Rābiṭat al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī (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 All Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organization (PERKIM), was largely responsible for the establishment of RISEAP, although the Rābiṭat also had a hand in its formation. RISEAP's headquarters are in Kuala Lumpur.

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 daʿwah 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. It has also emphasized the importance of interfaith dialogue, particularly in the environment following the events of September 11, 2001.

RISEAP has actively catered 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 daʿwah training courses in such countries as Fiji, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan. Training courses have taken place with funding from The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and Rābiṭat. Under its auspices ustādhs 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-Nahḍah, has undertaken to translate Islamic books, mainly for use by Muslim children. Although RISEAP concentrates on translating these works into six languages, including Malay, English, Japanese, and Chinese, it has also set its sights on speakers in a wide range of Asia-Pacific languages.

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 daʿwah 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. For, example, in the Philippines RISEAP has been authorized to certify ḥalāl foods.

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. It has recently actively opposed the war in Iraq as well as acts of violence against innocent civilians in the name of Islam.

RISEAP has grown in strength: it now has nineteen full and associate members including Australia, Brunei, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macao, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Tonga. 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 2007 RISEAP's membership had risen to over sixty 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 daʿwah 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.

See also DAʿWAH, subentry onINSTITUTIONALIZATION; MUSLIM WORLD LEAGUE; and PERKIM.

Bibliography

  • Ilias Hj. Zaidi. “Muktamar Dakwah Islamiyyah Serantau Bermula Di Kuala Lumpur Hari Ini” (Regional Islamic Dakwah Council Commences in Kuala Lumpur). Utusan Melayu, January 11, 1980.
  • Islamic Dakwah Council of South East Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP). Kuching Communiqué. Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies, August 09, 2004.
  • al-Nahdah (a quarterly journal of the RISEAP). See vol. 6, no. 3 (1986); vol. 8, nos. 3-4 (1988); and vol. 10, nos. 3-4 (1990).
  • RISEAP Newsletter, vol. 1, nos. 1-2 (1992).
  • Wahba. “Dakwah Di Asia Tenggara Akan Lebih Teratur” (Dakwah in Southeast Asia Increases Steadily). Utusan Zaman, January 20, 1980.
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