“There is no dearth of laws, but there is death of laws,” commented Warina Sushil A. Jukuy, Coordinator for Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA-WESMIN). She said that there is no dearth of laws, memoranda, issuances, department orders and yet disrespect for the right to wear hijab as a sign of piety prevails. I personally resonate with her observation that strict compliance of hijab legal guidance is actually met with outright defiance by personnel of the very agencies that issued them. Could this non-compliance be due to unprofessionalism, discrimination or mere ignorance?
Recent reported cases of disallowing the right to hijab are happening not only in hospitals, schools, universities, colleges, but are also either fully violated (mandatory removal of hijab) or partially violated (requiring ears exposure) as photo requirements in government agencies such as the Civil Service Commission (CSC), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Ms Jukuy said that the most appalling case of hijab transgression is the latest denouncement by concerned Filipino Muslims of what is transpiring in Doha, Qatar. Allegedly, undisclosed source bewailed that "Muslim women are not only asked by a male NBI Personnel to expose their ears, but they are FORCED to remove all head cover in the supposedly required NBI Photograph thereby exposing their hairs, faces and necks. This same male NBI personnel working in the Philippine Embassy in Doha is also the one who 'guides' the thumb marking part where he holds the Muslim Women hands and fingers saying that this needs to be done to ensure proper thumb marking, though this can be easily solved by having a female staff for the 'guiding' the process." In addition, recurring violations on hijab-niqab still persist in some Universities, Colleges, Health Care Institutions, and agencies. I wonder why other agencies are still ignorant about the existing laws about hijab when in fact as government agencies “they are duty-bound to know the policies on hijab-niqab so as to protect the rights of the veiled Muslimat and ultimately exercise their right to education as well as right to freedom of religion in legal conformity with their dignity and substantive rights duly protected not only by Divine Law but also by the Philippine Constitution including the Universal Declarations of Human Rights amongst United Nations.”
Nonetheless, PAHRA-WESMIN Coordinator asserted that the NBI Memo 28 series of 2008 by its director Atty. Nestor M. Mantaring is the most fulfilling in terms of providing relief to the undue vexation experienced by NBI clearance Muslim lady applicants in the process of photo-taking; although most of us understandably are still unaware of it but it is unforgivable for NBI personnel to be oblivious to it. Item 3 of said memo states to wit:
xxx“…3. Use of head scarf for religious and medical reasons is allowed, (i.e. Muslim women, nuns, cancer patients with hair loss/alopecia). However, the scarf should not cover any portion of the face of the applicant. As much as possible, both ears of the applicant should be visible. It is acceptable if the ears of a Muslim woman-applicant or of applicants who is a member of Religious Order (nuns), ARE NOT visible on the photograph…”xxx
“The hijab peace advocacy in proactive defense of our Muslimat Fortress is still on!” The most recent fight for the protection of hijab was the Round Table Dialogue on Muslimat Human Security Peace Agenda: Putting Hijab at the Forefront- Part 2 held last October 1, 2011, Saturday, at the Convention Hall of Amil’s Tower, Pilar Street, Zamboanga City. The RTD was convened by the joint effort of two non-stock, non-profit organizations which are in the forefront of asserting the Muslimat’s right to religious freedom, the Islamic Medical Association of the Philippines (IMAN) and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA-WESMIN); and attended by various government line agencies and Muslim stakeholders such as Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Health (DOH), Center for Health Development (CHD), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP-the one who sponsored the event), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Darul Iftah Council of the Philippines, Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN-WESMIN) and Federation of Muslim Students Association (FMSA), Markaz Ad-Dhiya Inc., Al-Furqan Islamic Cultural Center, Markaz at-Tarbiya as well as actively supported by other various Markaz, Mahad, and Madaris in the Philippines. Alhamdulillah, albeit handwritten in pen, commitment - to co-own the issue, collaborate and take action on the strict compliance and dissemination of said legal guidelines- was signed by all RTD Panel discussants.
Alhamdu lillaahi, as a by-product of the multi-stakeholders vigilant hijab advocacy in partnership with DOH, DepED, CHR, NCMF along with the all out support of our Muslim leaders (from the elders and the youth), such as the NUCP, Darul Ifta’ Council, FMSA, YMPN-WESMIN various Mehad, Marakez and Madaris--- hijab legal guidelines were collated along with the most recently signed issuances and resolution for adequate dissemination to ensure its strict compliance in order to end hijab transgression.
Among the many legal documents collated for IEC campaign are the following: NCMF Issuance Re: Legal Guidelines on Hijab by Bureau on Legal Affairs issued by Commissioner Atty. Edilwasif T.Baddiri dated September 20, 2011; Resolution No. 44, Series of 2011 approved and signed by Hon. Bai Omera D. Dianalan-Lucman and Commissioners of National Commission on Muslim Filipinos dated October 05, 2011; NBI Order Re: Memorandum Order No. 28 S. 2008, Guidelines on Photo Requirements and Picture Taking for NBI Clearance Purposes approved by Atty. Nestor M. Mantaring, Director of NBI Central Office, Manila in response to the appeal of Deputy Mufti Shaykh Abdulwakil S. Tanjilil; DOH Memo and Order namely DOH MEMO No. 2009-0107 issued by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, MD MSc. (Re:Strengthening the Protection of Religious Rights of Muslim workers, including but not limited to students and trainees in health facilities), which was duly reiterated by DOH MEMO No. 2011-0232dated 16 August 2011 Re: Reiterating Compliance to DOH MEMO No. 2009-0107 by Nemesio T. Gako, MD, MPH, CESO II, Asst Secretary of Health, Internal Finance and Administration Technical Cluster- lobbied by IMAN President Sherjan Kalim, MD; Strengthening the Protection of Religious Rights of Students (DepED Order No. 53 s. 2001 by Sec Raul S. Roco; and CHED MEMO dated 26 August 2008 signed by OIC Dr Nina S. Ricafort).
Laudably, the most comprehensive legal guidelines are from NCMF which condensed all the aforesaid legal documents except that of NBI Memo Order; as well as included constitutional basis: 1987 Philippine Constitution: The Bill of Rights, Article 3, Section 5 and Republic Act No. 9710, The Magna Carta of Women. In the NCMF issuance, Commsr Baddiri recommends the following: Disseminate information on the pertinent laws and government guidelines on the wearing of hijab by Muslim Filipino women thru press releases, radio and television announcements and official communication to pertinent schools and hospitals in your area of jurisdiction; Visit all heads of pertinent schools and hospital to dialogue on matters relating to the wearing of hijab by Muslim Filipino women; Conduct events to promote respect for the freedom of religious practice.
Relentlessly, hijab peace advocacy in proactive defense of our Muslimat Fortress is still on! Along this tone, NUCP Shaykh Jamal S. Munib reiterated: “We are not asking for what is not ours; we are asking for what we deserve!” After all, “there is no reason why the pious' and the righteous' rights must NOT be asserted, protected, defended, and fulfilled by the State especially so that it is not contrary to public customs, public morals, and public policy. Vigilance of Muslims and our menfolk's sense of gheerah or chivalry to protect the vulnerability of our Muslim ladies won.” Not only is CHEDRO-9 Rep Dr Rody Garcia (a Muslim revert) is with us when he urged: “Let us go out there and campaign for hijab!”; not only is the United Nations is with us when UN Sec Gen Ban Ki-Moon declared: “On this day, I urge all champions of democracy and peace throughout the world to make your voices heard. The United Nations stands with you.”; but most of all, Allah is with us in waging Islam for peace, Alhamdu lillaahi.
Let us always remember and be inspired by Allah’s verse in Surah Al-Imran, as He promised us “So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.” Al-Qur’an Surah al-Imran 3:139.