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Muslim clerics call for probe of Arab aid mess

12:20 AM June 29, 2014

DAVAO CITY—Muslim clerics in Lanao del Sur province and Marawi City are complaining about what they said was the lack of will of  authorities to investigate irregularities surrounding the use of aid from Arab countries, which had led to the province and the city being blacklisted as aid recipients.

Arab countries have been regularly pouring in financial aid to Lanao del Sur and Marawi, known as the Philippines’ lone Islamic city, for construction of mosques. Arab countries have also been helping poor Muslims in the Philippines go on pilgrimage to Mecca.

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But Abdul Jamal, a respected Maranaw Muslim cleric, said Arab countries had discovered that many clerics, who were recipients of previous financial aid packages, misused the money for  their political bids instead of building mosques.

Worse, Najib Al-Udayni, the Yemeni who discovered the irregularity, was kidnapped in February 2010.

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Al-Udayni of the United Arab Emirates-based aid group Markazos Shabab Al Muslim Filfilibbin Inc. was released a few days after being abducted, but his kidnappers were never punished, Jamal said.

He said Arab countries had decided to totally cut off aid to Lanao del Sur and Marawi  as a result of the kidnapping.

“My fellow clerics from Saudi Arabia have said the assistance was scrapped because of that incident,” Jamal told reporters on Monday.

Jamal said the kidnapping case also prompted an advisory to Islamic missionaries from Arab countries “to refrain from visiting Lanao del Sur and Marawi City.”

Jamal said he had wished  Lanao del Sur first district Rep. Faysah Dumarpa, who helped in the negotiations for the release of Al-Udayni, called for an investigation of the kidnapping and the irregularities surrounding the aid from Arab countries.

“But it did not happen,” he said.

Dumarpa could not be reached for comment.

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Jamal said that because of the lack of will of Philippine authorities to investigate and punish those behind the irregularities and the kidnapping of Al-Udayni, ordinary Muslims in Lanao del Sur and Marawi  are now suffering the consequences.

“We are really hoping they will do something now, if only to restore what was lost, especially the trust of Arab countries in Maranaw clerics,” he said.

Sought for comment, a staffer at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said the agency had no data available on the amount of financial aid provided by Arab countries to Lanao del Sur and Marawi  because most of the aid come from individual donors who directly transact with local governments.

The NCMF, which replaced the Office on Muslim Affairs, is the government agency that ensures the rights and well-being of Muslim Filipinos with regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions. Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao, with a report from  Rafael Antonio, Inquirer Research

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TAGS: aid, Arab, Graft and Corruption, Lanao del Sur, Marawi
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