MANILA, Philippines—Muslim lawmakers are asking Education Secretary Armin Luistro to reconsider his directive requesting Muslim public schoolteachers not to wear their face veils in the classroom, so as not to unduly interfere with their beliefs, religion, and culture.
The lawmakers said in a joint statement that although Luistro’s directive was worded as a request, it still conflicts with the teachings of the Quran and “is patently offensive to the religious feelings of the Muslim people, and would the provisions of the Islamic Dress Code.”
Luistro’s directive states that teachers handling Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education are requested to remove the niqab or veil covering the face when teaching in the classroom.
This was intended to promote relations between the teacher and the student and to support effective language teaching. If students see the teachers’ lips during the lesson, this would help them in the correct production of letter sounds, he had explained.
The lawmakers said in the statement that even if the removal of the face veil would only be implemented on a case-to-case basis, it was still detrimental to their culture and practice.
The statement was signed by Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali, Anak Mindanao party list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, Lanao del Sur Rep. Ansarrudin Adiong, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadato, and Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo.
“Our way of life’s subject to the teachings of Islam, and although it may seem harsh or outdated to you and our Christian brothers, nevertheless, it is our tradition, and we are bound by it. We ask you for your respect for our tradition, and we thank you for your efforts in looking for the best ways to improve our educational system,” they said.
In calling for a reconsideration of the DepEd directive, they cited quotes from the compilation of Abdul Rahman Abdullah of Fordham University on the Islamic Dress Code.
One quote from the book states: “Allah has ordered that women should draw cloaks over their body. Therefore, it is imperative for a Muslim woman to wear a veil to hide her charm, clothing and ornaments; to refrain from being a source of temptation.”
Another quote says, “The majority of religious scholars are of the opinion that veiling applies to all parts of body including face, palms, and feet in that light of the evidence from the Quran and Hadith.”
“In this context, every Muslim should understand the rationale of veiling and observe the rules relevant to it so that one may avoid the displeasure of Allah and His messenger,” the book further states.
The lawmakers said that with these passages, it could be gleaned that “veiling is unavoidable for women.”
They also said that some might argue that wearing the Jilbab, or women’s outer garment, may not be for all Muslim women. But this could endanger Muslim tradition or culture, they added.
“But if taken to mean that way, then it would defeat the very purpose behind the provisions for veiling, because the students, the Muslim girls who will be bound by the Islamic Code of Dress, may not anymore think of it as a tradition or culture, since the persons of authority, i.e., their teachers, have already discarded the custom,” they said.