By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Anak Mindanao partylist Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan wants to declare February 1 every year as “National Hijab Day” to protect freedom of religion, and the right of Filipino Muslim women to practice their religion.
The Mindanaoan lawmaker sought to breathe life into the proposal which was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading in the previous 17th Congress.
She filed House Bill 1582 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,” Sangcopan said.
“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,” she added.
Under House Bill 1582, “hijab” is defined 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, ” the bill said.
A Muslim woman wearing the hijab is called “hijabi.”
Sangcopan said House Bill 1582 seeks 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,” she said.
The bill encourages Muslim and non-Muslim women alike 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,” it said.
The bill tasks the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to be the lead agency that would promote and raise consciousness about hijabis in the Philippines.
It is expected to conduct fora, information dissemination campaign, and other educational drive to effectively meet the objectives of the proposed Act.
“Discrimination and maltreatment of our Hijabi all around the world continue because people fail to understand the reason for wearing the hijab,” Sangcopan said.
She laments that some universities in the country ban Muslim students from wearing hijab, which is a violation of students’ freedom of religion.
“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.
Sangcopan noted that the very first observance of the World Hijab Day (WHD) was on February 1, 2013.
It was founded by Ms. Nazma Khan.
The WHD, which sought to foster social awareness about wearing hijabs and eradicate the stigma attached to it, 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.