DUBAI // One of the largest Filipino Muslim groups in the UAE is pushing ahead with plans for an umbrella organisation to help people who fall on hard times.
There are more than 14,000 Filipino Muslims estimated to be living in the UAE, who represent 13 groups. The majority of expatriates are Maguindanaoans and most work as housemaids. They are followed by Maranaos, a term used for the people of a predominantly Muslim region in southern Philippines known as Lanao.
Among the groups are the Tausugs from Sulu and Tawi-tawi, the Iranuns who live in the borders of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces, and the Yakans from Basilan.
Camid Balindog Pumbaya, 32, is the new president of the Maranao Community (Marcom) in the UAE. He is proceeding with plans announced last May by his predecessor, Hanifah Ampatua, to reach out to all groups in the Emirates with the aim of consolidation. The goal is to form a new alliance of groups that Filipinos who have lost their jobs and face financial hardship can turn to for help in returning home.
"They could address their problems to the federation, which will serve as our umbrella organisation," said Mr Pumbaya. "I will call a general meeting of the different tribal leaders, heads of Filipino Muslim organisations and Filipino Muslim converts sometime this December, and expect it [the federation] to take shape by the middle of next year."
Ms Ampatua said that most of the groups were aware of the proposed alliance and she was confident they would support it.
Alem Abiden Macatangcop, 40, a Maranao who works as a religious guide and teacher of converts at a Sharjah centre, pledged his support to the federation at a function to mark Eid al Adha in November.
"It's important for Filipino Muslim converts to be involved," he said. "They need to understand that Islam is a way of life; it's about giving and doing charitable deeds."
As part of his work, Mr Pumbaya said he also planned to organise a symposium on the wide range of problems faced by Filipino Muslims in the Emirates. It would be followed by an open forum for a question-and-answer session.
Among the problems that Marcom had identified were troubles faced by people illegally recruited to work in the UAE or who were made redundant; housemaids staying in women's shelters after fleeing their employer's homes and the repatriation of deceased compatriots.