DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 October) – Will February 1, 2023 be the first celebration of National Hijab Day in the Philippines?
The first time a bill was filed seeking this National Hijab Day declaration was seven years ago, under the 16th Congress. The House of Representatives had in fact approved in 2018 and 2021 (17th and 18th Congress) the bills filed declaring February 1 of each year as National Hijab Day.
February 1 is also World Hijab Day. Female Muslims wear the hijab, a piece of cloth covering their head, neck and chest.
In the present Congress (19th Congress) House Bills 1363 and 3725 got the nod of the Committee on Muslim Affairs last week, a move Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman, author of HB 3725, described as “one step forward in the fight vs discrimination.”
Hataman’s wife, Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, now mayor of Isabela City in Basilan, was the first to file a bill seeking that declaration, on February 10, 2015.
This year, Maguindanao Rep. Dimple Mastura filed HB 1363 on July 6 while Hataman filed HB 3725 on August 17. The two bills have been consolidated and approved by the House Committee on Muslim Affairs chaired by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo.
At the Senate, there are also two bills on the National Hijab Day: Senate Bill 805 filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada on July 25 and SB 1272 filed on September 23 by Senator Robinhood Padilla.
Hataman, who served as governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from December 2011 to February 2019, said the committee’s approval of the hijab bills is “a huge step in our efforts against discrimination based on religion.” He said he hopes that the two houses of Congress will finally pass the legislation.
If passed into law, February 1, 2023 will be the first celebration of National Hijab Day, eight years after its declaration was first sought in Congress.
The first bill proposing the declaration of February 1 as National Hijab Day was HB 5443, filed on February 10, 2015 by Turabin-Hataman who was then representative of Anak Mindanao party-list.
A year before that, she delivered a privilege speech on January 29, 2014 about the World Hijab Day on February 1. “As a Muslim, we are often asked, I as a
hijabi am often asked why do we wear the hijab? Why do we cover our heads and ourselves? Women who wear the hijab do so for varied reasons. But the very basis is a verse in the Holy Qur’an.”
She cited Chapter 33, Verse 59 which states: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast theirouter garments over their persons, that is most convenient, that they should be known and notmolested. And Allah if Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
She said the verse has taken on different interpretations, that it is obligatory while others say it is a choice.
“Some say what needs to be covered is only the hair, thereby exposing the rest of the face, while some say even the face must be covered, exposing only the eyes. This explains, Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues, why you see Muslim women wearing simply the hijab, while others, the niqab or that which covers the face,” she explained.
But the differences, she stressed, “do not change the essence of the wearing of hijab which is modesty. The differences in wearing it, in style, also do not change the fact that many, because of this
piece of cloth that we wear, are discriminated.”
She noted how women wearing hijab have suffered discrimination. She said sometimes people “look down on us, make fun of us and some are even physically hurt.”
“Discrimination comes in the form of being denied jobs or employment; being branded as a terrorist or a security risk; being deprived or denied of the right to wear hijab; and looked upon as a woman with little intellect or without free will. This is the image that we want to correct by joining the World Hijab Day campaign,” she said.
Other acts of discrimination experienced by women wearing hijab is being ignored by drivers of public transport and not attended to in stores.
In the next Congress, Turabin-Hataman re-filed the hijab bill, HB 0968, on July 4, 2016 which was consolidated with HB 8590, filed on November 19, 2018 by Representatives Bai Sandra Sema, Amihilda Sangcopan, Makmod Mending, Jr., Mauyag Papandayan Jr. and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. According to the bill’s history, the consolidated version was approved by the House of Representatives on third reading on December 4, 2018 and transmitted to the Senate two days later. No action was taken at the Senate level.
Two years later, HB 8249, filed on December 15, 2020 by Reps. Sangcopan, Yasser Alonto Balindong, Datu Roonie Sr. Q. Sinsuat, Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Abdullah Dimaporo, Godofredo N. Guya and Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong, was approved by the House of Representatives on January 26, 2021 and transmitted to the Senate on January 27, 2021, requesting for concurrence.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and went through three joint committee meetings / hearings with the Committee on Women, Children, Family relations and Gender equality and returned jointly per Committee Report No. 370 on December 6, 2021, recommending that it be considered in Senate Bill 2081 which was filed on March 2, 2021 by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The bill was considered in SB 2081 on the same day but no further action was taken on SB 2081 until Congress adjourned. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)