Manila, MINA – In a “milestone” move, the Philippines House of Representatives has approved a bill declaring February 1 as National Hijab Day every year to promote a “deeper understanding” of Muslim practice, as well as tolerance of other religions around the world.
Congress unanimously approved the bill, which has yet to become law, on Tuesday, January 26, with 203 lawmakers voting for the move, Arab News reported.
Anak Mindanao party list Representative Amihilda Sangcopan, principal author and sponsor of the DPR Bill No. 8249, thanked all MPs for passing the legislation and called on members of the Senate to espouse a counterpart measure.
The legislation seeks to promote a greater understanding among non-Muslims about the practice and “value of wearing the hijab as an act of modesty and dignity to Muslim women” and encourage Muslim and non-Muslim women “to experience the virtue of wearing it.”
The measures also aims to stop discrimination against women who wear them and clear misconceptions about sartorial choices, which are often mistaken for symbol of oppression, terrorism and a lack of freedom.
The bill also seeks to protect the right to religious freedom for Filipino Muslim women and promote tolerance and acceptance of religions and other lifestyles across the country.
Sangcopan said women wearing the hijab have been facing several challenges acrosse the globe, citing the example of several universities in the Philippines that prohibited Muslim students from wearing the hijab.
“Some of these students are forced to remove their hijab to comply with the school’s rules and regulations, while some are forced to drop out and transfer to other institutions. These are clear violations of the student’s freedom of religion,” she said.
Passing the bill, he added, would “contribute greatly to ending discrimination against women who wear the hijab.”
“Wearing the hijab is the right of every Muslim woman. It’s not just a piece of cloth, but it is said to be their way of life. It has been explained in the Muslim holy book, the Al-Qur’an that it is obligatory for every Muslim woman to guard their chastity and modesty,” Sangcopan said.
Potre Stagnated with Ability, a trustees of the United Religions Initiative’s Global Council, welcomed the “milestone” legislation.
“This is an exercise in what we call inclusivity. I think this is a very welcome step in the eyes of the Muslim community,” Diampu told Arab News.
“A woman wearing a hijab here is always get a second look. so that the sight is a common one. The hijab will become a part of our wardrobe as Filipinos, ”he added.
According to the Philippine Statistical Authority, there are more than 10 million Muslims in the Philippines out of a total population of 110,428,130 based on the latest UN data. Diampu said the bill was an acknowledgment of the country’s Muslim population and rejected the idea that wearing the hijab amounted to oppression.
“Women must be appreciated not by their looks but what they know, what they do and what they contribute to society…Where secular society says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think Islam would say that beauty is in the heart of the person,” Diampuan said.
The bill mandates the Philippine Muslim National Commission to celebrate National Hijab Day by promoting and raising awareness about the hijab in the Philippines.
At the 17th congress, a similar bill was introduced by Sitti Djalia “Dadah” Turabin-Hataman, who completed the third and final reading at the House of Representatives. The Sangcopan bill, which was recently approved, was submitted in 2018.
Islam is the second largest religion in the Philippines, with the majority of Muslims living on the Mindanao Island.
In Mindanao, there is an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which comprises the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu Tawi-Tawi, but excluding Isabela City in Basilan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao. (T/R7/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)