NCMF Acts on 'Hijab' Issue

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines --- The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) yesterday appealed for understanding and respect, amid an alleged controversy generated by the wearing of "hijab" (veil or head-covering) in schools.

"As the wearing of the hijab or the veil is a sign of modesty and obedience to God, it can never denigrate or damage educational institutions. Instead, it can uplift the institution's sense of modesty and morality without distinction as to religion," NCMF Secretary Mehol K. Sadain said.

Sadain explained that wearing the hijab is similar to the wearing of the veil, adding the veil "has a long history of Christian usage to indicate modesty and dedication to God."

The NCMF chief, a lecturer on Islamic Law and staunch exponent of dialogue and tolerance between faith communities, was commenting on the hijab ban in Pilar College in Zamboanga City.

For the past weeks, the social networking website Facebook has been a venue for Muslims to ventilate their views on the hijab ban, which the school's management has acknowledged.

Sadain wrote an Open Letter to Sister Maria Nina C. Balbas, RVM, president of Pilar College.

"I am writing, not to argue, but to enlighten; and not to object, but to appeal for your kind reconsideration and compromise, in behalf of the hijab-wearing Muslimah enrolled in Pilar College," he said.

The NCMF official communicated with the school after receiving a copy of the letter of Sister Balbas to Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, which she wrote in response to the City Council's Resolution No. 552 issued on June 27, 2012.

Sadain noted that her letter justified the hijab ban as Pilar College's policy. He cited that her letter to the mayor pointed out that the policy on hijab was explained to Muslim students so "in this way we are giving freedom to students to choose a school which best fits them."

"This is part of academic freedom in connection with which the school has the right to choose whom to teach," Sadain cited the school president's letter, saying she quoted Ulpiano Sarmiento in "Education Law and Private School (2009). …