SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Every February may soon begin with a celebration of Filipino hijabis thanks to a bill filed by Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan (Party-list, Anak Mindanao), which seeks to declare February 1 of every year as "National Hijab Day."
House Bill 1582 defines "hijab" as a veil that covers the head and chest. It is particularly worn by a Muslim female beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family. "Hijab" may further refer to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conform to a certain standard of modesty, according to the bill.
A "hijabi" is a Muslim woman wearing the hijab.
In the past 17th Congress, a similar proposal contained in House Bill 8590, hurdled third and final reading in the House of Representatives in December 2018.
House Bill 1582 seeks to encourage Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear the hijab and experience the virtue of wearing it. It further seeks to promote and deepen understanding amongst non-Muslims about the value of wearing hijab as an act of modesty and dignity to Muslim women.
The measure also aims to stop discrimination against hijabis and remove the misconceptions of wearing hijab, which has been misunderstood as a symbol of oppression, terrorism, and lack of freedom.
Moreover, HB 1582 seeks to protect the freedom of religion and the right of Filipino Muslim women to practice their religion.
Finally, the measure hopes to promote appreciation for diversity in expression of oneself and one's faith and religion as well as tolerance and acceptance of other lifestyles amongst the Filipino nation.
The observance of National Hijab Day shall showcase hijabis' rights. Muslim and non-Muslim women alike are encouraged to don the hijab for one day. Government institutions, private sectors, and schools are encouraged to observe the event in a manner that promotes understanding and awareness among its employees and students as to the objective of the campaign.
The bill mandates the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to celebrate the event as the lead agency in promotion and raising consciousness about hijabis in the Philippines. The NCMF shall conduct activities to deepen understanding of the hijab as a lifestyle choice among Muslim women. Towards this end, it may conduct fora, information dissemination campaign, and other educational drive to effectively meet the objectives of the measure.
According to Sangcopan, the very first observance of the World Hijab Day (WHD) was on February 1, 2013. Founded by Ms. Nazma Khan, the WHD sought to foster social awareness about wearing hijabs and eradicate the stigma attached to it. In the years since, the WHD has become an annual event encouraging Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear the hijab and experience the life of a hijabi woman for a day.
"Discrimination and maltreatment of our Hijabi all around the world continue because people fail to understand the reason for wearing the hijab," Sangcopan said.
In the Philippines, some universities ban Muslim students from wearing hijab. Sangcopan said this violates students' freedom of religion, because they are forced to remove their hijab to comply with the school's rules and regulations or drop out and transfer to other institutions.
"The wearing of hijab is every Muslim Woman's right. It is 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 Qur-an that it is obligatory upon every Muslim woman to guard their chastity and modesty," she said. / Czarina Engracia / News and Documentation Section-Press and Public Affairs Bureau / House of Representatives of the Philippines