The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM), in cooperation with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), Training and Capacity Building Branch (TCBB) of UN-HABITAT and University of East London (UEL) successfully hosted an international pilot training on land and property rights issues in Islamic Contexts.
The training took place from 30 November - 5 December 2009 and attracted 20 participants from 10 countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Maldives, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Mauritius). The objectives of the training were to: pilot test the training package for wider dissemination and use; communicate foundational principles of Islamic law and how they relate to land and property rights; develop knowledge, networks and capacity on Islamic approaches to land and property rights; and generate possible action plans and strategies for use in training and workplace settings.
The Training Package piloted at IIUM, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia evolved from GLTN’s work which began in 2004 with the commissioning of a research and subsequent publication of a book under the title ‘Land Law and Islam: Property and Human Rights in the Muslim World’ (Siraj Sait and Hilary Lim). Parallel to this, GLTN and UEL were involved in global multi-stakeholder consultations that, among other things, resulted in the Cairo Initiative 2005 and the East London Guiding Principles 2007. The book and other resources that came out of the consultations formed the basis for the development of a training package which was first released in July 2008. After internal review by GLTN/TCBB staff, the training package was taken to a peer review workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2009. The workshop suggested a number of refinements which were used to revise the training package. The product that IIUM piloted is therefore a multi-partner and multi-year effort that tapped into the expertise and experiences of scholars and a variety of stakeholders including those in professional associations and non-governmental organizations.
Not a faith based training!
Representatives of major partners who took part in rolling out the pilot training made statements at the opening of the training which clearly underscored that the training package is not a faith based course but rather one that pragmatically appreciates what Islam has to offer in terms promoting access to land and securing land rights for all. They emphasized upfront the need for cross-cultural, inter-faith, interdisciplinary and professional dialogues and processes which are also inclusive of Muslim scholars, policymakers, civil society and development partners. This resonated well with training participants who had prior coming to the training gone through the course readers and noted that this was indeed the thrust of the package. This understanding enabled the training to take place in an open, non-ideological and constructive exploration of issues and the potential benefits of Islamic concepts and principles. Further, it was agreed that the concepts and principles of Islamic law are relevant not only in Muslim countries but also in countries where Muslims are a minority and their land and property rights have to tread a thin line between Islamic property ethos and statutory land laws.
The training was a success in realizing its objectives. Training participants at the end of the event produced personal and country action plans which would be implemented to improve the state of land rights in their communities. Likewise, major actors who were involved in running the training and / or came in as participants agreed in principle to initiate and collaborate on a number of projects which are all related to taking the Islamic land agenda forward. The preliminary agreement, which is subject to additional reviews and approval, is expressed through a joint declaration adopted as Kuala Lumpur Action Plan (KLAP). The potential projects captured in KL AP include the following:
- Tool development for developing and managing WAQF properties (possible Partners: IIUM, Department of Awqaf, Zakat And Hajj (JAWHAR) Government of Malaysia, UEL and GLTN/UN-HABITAT)
- Research, publication and training on Muslim women’s land and property rights (possible partners: Institute for Islamic Understanding (IKIM), IIUM, UEL and GLTN/UN-HABITAT)
- Translation of ‘Land Law and Islam: Property and Human Rights in the Muslim World’ in Bhasa Malay (Lead Institution: IIUM with other local partners and funding sources)
The KLAP, which lists the aforementioned and a few other projects and the rationale for initiating them, is yet to be circulated and endorsed by the respective partners.
On the margins of the training event, training organizers/trainees visited JAWHAR, Department of Land and Mines and IIKM and conducted useful discussions on a variety of land and property rights issues.
The IIUM, which served as a lead institution in planning and organizing the pilot training course is one of the newest partners of GLTN. It joined the Network in September 2009. The common interest that both GLTN and the IIUM have in Islamic land matters has led to forging the partnership. IIUM is a training institution with strong faculty, recognized expertise and a large alumni network. GLTN is, among other things, an emerging land sector coordination framework with strong interest in training to build capacities. Given this convergence of interests, activities as well as availability of complementary expertise, both parties right at the beginning realized that the partnership would expand beyond the pilot training at hand and would include other joint activities in other areas as well. The projects that form the KLAP attest to this vision and point to a possible fruitful and long term cooperation.
The partners who piloted the training package gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by Norway and Sweden without which such an innovative initiative couldn’t have taken place.