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Head of Philippine Islamic Council Meets with Eminent UCLA Scholar of Islamic LawMr. Taha Basman (left) and Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl.

Head of Philippine Islamic Council Meets with Eminent UCLA Scholar of Islamic Law

Mr. Taha Basman, Secretary General of the Philippine Islamic Council held discussions with Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl July 28.

By Harout Semerdjian

Mr. Taha Basman, Secretary General of the Philippine Islamic Council, who is also commissioner for the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, visited UCLA on Monday, July 28, as part of the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Program. He met with Khaled Abou El Fadl of the UCLA School of Law. Dr. El Fadl is one of the leading experts in Islamic Law in the United States and Europe, and was recently appointed by President Bush to the Committee on Religious Freedom. The UCLA segment of Mr. Basman's visit to the United States was hosted by the International Institute's International Visitors Bureau.

Mr. Basman's impressive record includes membership in the Philippine Foundation for Public Administration, the Islamic Directorate of the Philippines, and the Muslim Research and Information Foundation. An editor-publisher of a weekly newspaper and author of several publications and articles, Mr. Basman has been active over the years in inter-religious dialogues and movements.

In their meeting, Dr. El Fadl and Mr. Basman mostly discussed the history and religion of the Philippines. The Philippines currently has a population of over 72 million people, of which over 80 percent belong to the Roman Catholic faith. The government puts the figure of Muslims at about five percent, while Mr. Basman holds that number is closer to eight or ten percent.

Prior to the coming of the Spanish to the Philippines, the archipelago's population was over ninety percent Muslim, according to Mr. Basman. Islam was introduced to the country around 1380 by Missionary Mukdum. Even Manila, the Philippine capital, was at one time an Islamic principality ruled by a Sultan. The Spanish embarked on a forced policy of conversion in the country, and except for a part of the southern islands that remained Muslim, nearly the entire population eventually embraced Catholicism. Dr. El Fadl considered such a conversion "remarkable," since such mass conversion did not take place in other regions colonized by the Spanish. The regions that remained Muslim are today considered the Islamic trouble spots in the country.

Dr. El Fadl stressed that accounts of Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity are not well publicized. Current books discuss the "violence" of Islam but never talk about Christian cruelty against Muslims.

At the end of their meeting, Dr. El Fadl informed Mr. Basman that he will visit the Philippines shortly as a member of the Committee on Religious Freedom. Mr. Basman expressed enthusiasm to host Dr. El Fadl in the Philippines. After their meeting a campus tour was conducted by International Visitors Bureau Assistant and Ph.D. student in History, Harout Semerdjian.

UCLA International Institute