MANILA, Philippines – Wearing pink hijabs, young Muslim women will join hundreds of other Muslim professionals, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other non-Muslims in a run Sunday on the historic Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA to promote religious understanding among Filipinos.
“This run by Muslim women on EDSA is the first of its kind and its significance also underlines the need for awareness on the wearing of hijab [veil] as an important part of our Islamic Faith, celebrates diversity and peaceful coexistence in the mainstream,” said Bai Rohaniza Sumndad Usman of the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) that is organizing the event.
“This is also a good opportunity for us to present the positive paradigm about Islam in response to the different challenges being faced by Muslims,” she added in a statement released by the AFP public information office.
The event, dubbed “Hijab Run for Peace: Religious Understanding Now,” will be from the EDSA People Power Monument to the AFP Grandstand. It will start at 6 a.m.
It comes on the eve of the signing of the so-called Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Malacañang on Monday.
The agreement has been described as the blueprint for a final peace accord between the government and the MILF.
“This run is a very promising event as it is also timely with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro region. This goes to show that our nation continuously commits itself in winning the peace and it is our call in this gathering for all Filipinos to welcome this development and altogether give peace a chance,” said YMPN Chairman Nash Kasim.
Amirah Gutoc, chair of the YMPN Committee on Women, added that the group believes that “religious understanding and freedom (are) a vital step towards achieving peace in our country.”
Gutoc said that the run was a “symbolic response to the negative portrayal of Muslims in media, following the hype by the controversial film Innocence of Muslims that caused violent reactions locally and in areas in the Middle East and also in relation to the recently discriminatory policy of banning the hijab in private schools and certain health facilities in the south.”
For AFP Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa, the Hijab Run “is a symbolic activity where all religions could converge and unify for a single purpose of increasing awareness for social unity and equality.”
“In light of the recent developments in our quest for peace, the whole Armed Forces supports this gathering to show our solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who undertake initiatives that bring us closer to just and enduring peace for the country,” he said.
Also expected to join the event were AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Rear Adm. Miguel Jose Rodriguez, Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns Yasmin Busran Lao, Philippine Commission on Women Chairperson Remedios Ignacio-Rikken, officials from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of Health, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, and civil society organizations.
The run is supported by the AFP, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Legislative Assembly; and civil society peace advocates like Fitianol Islam, Khadija Center for Muslim Women Studies, PeaceTech, Asia America Initiative, Generation Peace, and GroupAid.