Catholic school prepares to lift ‘hijab’ ban

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MANILA, Sept. 17, 2012—A Catholic school has taken steps that may eventually lift the ban on the Muslim headscarves on students in Zamboanga City following a broader stakeholder dialogue.

It may not be immediate, but the Religious of the Virgin Mary-run Pilar College is making sure that such “social preparation” will be fully understood by the school’s faculty and students.

“There is a need for everybody in the Pilar College Community, Christians and Muslims, to develop the right attitude and understanding of the meaning and value of the wearing of the hijab and Muslim spirituality,” said Sr. Maria Fe Gerodias, representative of the RVM southern Mindanao province.

“They need to go through the process of the educational intervention for formation.  Only then, shall the female Muslim students who are ready to wear the hijab, commence or begin,” she said.

As to who will be allowed to wear the hijab when the “appropriate times comes,” Gerodias said, “That will be discussed in the course of the processed educational intervention. We cannot decide for now.”

Muslim scholars would say, though, that it is at the puberty age of the girls, she also said.

The nun further revealed that they are eyeing June 2013, the opening of the next schoolyear, as the target to finally implement the “change” in the Pilar College community.


In a joint statement, the Pilar College and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), in partnership with its stakeholders, will implement programs toward the voluntary wearing of hijab in accordance with “agreed specifications.”

“It has to do with the design and color of the hijab to be eventually used by the female Muslim students in Pilar College when the appropriate time comes,” Sr. Gerodias said.

“Since it will already become part of the uniform, it will consider simplicity and uniformity which shall be proposed to the parents and students who will decide to use the hijab,” she added.

Same goal:  Stop discrimination

The initial concern of the use of hijab is the discrimination issue in which Muslim students wearing the veil might be frowned at by Christians and even by other Muslims who interpret the practice differently.

It was said that for the 118-years Pilar College’s existence, there was a brief time that the hijab was allowed, but the school “saw that it did not serve the purpose of creating an atmosphere of harmony.”

“The hijab, became, as it were a barrier, this to equalize and democratize relationship and the environment in the campus, the hijab was not included in the prescribed uniform,” Gerodias said.

The decision to go easy on the ban, however, was made following a dialogue between the Pilar College Administration and the NCMF.

The issue was first addressed within the school’s faculty and students before consultations were made with Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and officials of Al Qalam institute of Muslim Identity of Ateneo de Davao University.

The ban was questioned by the NCMF and called on the school administration to revisit their policy to avoid discrimination by allowing difference in the campus.

Sr. Gerodias noted that both parties are going after the same cause: to avoid discrimination against Muslim students and “thereby promoting respect and equality.”

The issue, she said, is how to initiate measures that are acceptable to everyone.

“With this, we see a difference – one tries to avoid discrimination by hiding the difference and the other tries to avoid discrimination by accepting the difference,” she added.

“It is on this note that the room for dialogue was made possible,” Gerodias said. [RL/CBCPNews]


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