The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is making preparations to establish the Philippines’ first Islamic institution of higher education, as stated by its education minister to Arab News. The necessary legislation for this endeavor is anticipated to be approved next month.
Muslims constitute roughly 6 percent of the 110 million predominantly Catholic population of the Southeast Asian nation. Most live on the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.
Their biggest concentration is in the Bangsamoro region, central Mindanao, where local communities have been professing Islam since the 14th century.
The region was until 2014 at the heart of a four-decade-long separatist struggle. It has never had institutions of Islamic education at tertiary level, but a bill to establish the first one — Kulliyyah Institution in Buluan, the capital of the Maguindanao Del Sur province — was presented to the local parliament in September 2022.
The institution, which will teach courses from undergraduate to postgraduate level, will also be the first of its kind in the whole country.
“I think the longest waiting period for the passage of the bill, which has been certified as urgent, will be until September. But I am very hopeful that we might be able to pass it within August,” Mohagher Iqbal, Bangsamoro’s minister of basic, higher, and technical education, told Arab News.
“Once the bill is passed within the power granted to the BARMM government, it’s deemed approved … for implementation.”
Kulliyyah Institution will be supervised directly by the Bangsamoro Education Ministry, which has held public consultations with experts and representatives from various national government agencies and educational and civil society organizations regarding the graduate school’s programs.
For Iqbal, establishing the school was not only a matter of strengthening the community’s educational foundations, but also the identity of Muslim Filipinos.
“What we want to address is the needs of our people,” he said. “For us, during the Spanish (colonial) period, that was the most important thing we fought for: Islam. Islam is our life.”
Bangsamoro is the only Muslim-majority territory in the Philippines.
The BARMM was formed in 2019. Legal and educational reforms are part of its transition to autonomy, which will culminate in 2025, when it will elect its legislature and executive.
It is hoped that Kulliyyah Institution will become the region’s hub of knowledge and study of Islamic law, history, culture and Arabic language.
“Muslim students will no longer need to go to other countries to pursue Islamic studies,” the region’s parliament said in a statement last week.
“The establishment of the institution in Buluan, Maguindanao del Sur aims to promote lifelong learning and continuous education for the Bangsamoro people, empowering them with knowledge, values, and competencies.”