Logo of the radio station

By Rexcel Sorza, IOL Correspondent

ILOILO CITY, Philippines, October 26, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – “Islam Hour” has proved a real success since the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, with many Muslims and non-Muslims calling for the Radio Show to be extended beyond the dawn-to-dusk fasting month.

The program is making more Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims know and understand Islam better through the hour-long radio show on Islam aired weekdays from the northern Philippine city of Baguio.

“I tune in to it because the program has made me rediscover my religion. It has made me appreciate Islam more than ever,” Khalil Baling, 28, told IOL Tuesday, October 25.

For about two weeks now Baling has tuned in to “Islam Hour”, aired by radio station Big FM from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The radio show began airing last October 4 as a segment of the morning public affairs program “Big Factor” that airs from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

“A friend from Saudi Arabia told me about it, and I followed it religiously,” Baling, a professional working in the Philippine capital Metro Manila, told IOL. “What I like about it is that I appreciate and better understand our beliefs,” he added.

Rashid Ugalingan, another Muslim professional, agreed.

“I like the way they discuss issues involving our faith. It is not that serious, which could sometimes be boring. I like the light treatment but grounded on the teachings of the Qur’an. I totally like the lively repartee of the hosts.

“You know their banter is so engaging that I go very early to the office and download the audio stream to listen to it,” further said Ugalingan, adding, “I am more encouraged to fast this holy month because I am constantly reminded by the program of its noble cause. I am reminded of its meaning.”

Reactions

Scholar Bedejim Abdullah, scholar and imam at the Philippine Military Academy, who is the program’s resource person, said they receive both positive and negative comments and reactions from the audience.

“We do get negative reactions, for example, from people who do not agree with Islam’s theological position on multiple marriages.

But we also get positive comments from them on many topics, like, for example, on the unity of the Ummah. Our unity is being hailed by both Muslims and non-Muslims,” he told IOL.

Abdullah said their program took the interest of hundreds of Filipinos since it went on air.

“Everyday we have at least 300 unanswered text [short messaging service] messages,” he told IslamOnline.net Tuesday.

He added: “People are even asking my whereabouts during weekends, when I am not on air.”

Bridge Gaps

Abdullah said the program reaching thousands of households in northern Philippines came about when he suggested it to the “Big Factor” program host Macky Magpili.

Magpili is a businessman who defied the rule when he introduced and hosted a public affairs program over an FM radio station which typically airs music.

Magpili “liked my idea about an Islamic talk coinciding with the month of Ramadan while having tea at SM shopping mall. He at first agreed to a 30-minute slot but on the first day, October 4, we were inundated with hundreds of feedbacks and he liked the response,” recounted Abdullah on how “Islam Hour” was hatched.

He said the program’s main objective is to bridge the gap between minority Muslim and majority non-Muslim Filipinos, and to make everyone know what Islam truly is and is not against the backdrop of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism, to which Islam has been stereotyped in and out of this largely Christian nation.

Growing

In Baguio City, a growing number of Muslims has been noted and evidenced by the growth of five masjids (mosques), according to IOL Correspondent.

Abdullah said Muslims and non-Muslims managed to co-exist harmoniously in Baguio, popular among tourists for its cool Western-like climate in this tropical country, although the relative peace and tranquility is at times disturbed by business-related conflicts and petty crimes.

“This is a great learning experience. It makes you improve your versatility to explain to people and to use sensitive words,” intimated Abdullah, a Muslim from Mindanao who grew up in and studied Islam in Manila.

He said he would like the radio program to continue even after Ramadan as it is a great help in educating and informing the Filipinos on Islam, but he has to
look for funds as the radio station would be charging him for the block-time.

“Charity is hard to come by as we see around the world and locally. We are economically hard up here locally but I am optimistic. Insha’ Allah, we shall keep the program going,” Abdullah, who has previously hosted Islamic radio shows in Metro Manila, said.

He added: “So far, many people became more interested about Islam and some have already embraced the faith. We hope and pray for Allah’s help and reward.”