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Catholic School in Mindanao changes policy on 'hijab ban'

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A private-run Catholic college has clarified the school has not imposed any “ban” on wearing of hijab by students.

Sister Fe Gerodias, representative of the Religious for the Virgin Mary (RVM) for Southern Mindanao province for Pilar College, said the non-wearing of veils, headdress, and other garb that may cover the hair, is in the handbook of the students , which is part of the school policy.

The 118-year old Pilar College of Zamboanga, run by Catholic nuns, came under criticism for the past weeks after allegations spread that it banned women Muslim students from wearing their hijab.

“We were surprised that policy was wrongly perceived as banning the wearing of hijab (Muslim veil),” Gerodias said.

However, Gerodias said they have considered the issue following weeks of discernment and consultation, dialogues, meetings with the Pilar College students, teachers, and faculty members, parents, alumni, administrators of the RVM congregation, church leaders, heads of the Bishop-Ulama Council, and the “higher superiors.”

“The decision was a fruit of discernment and consultation,” Gerodias said.

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She said they came into a decision, following a dialogue with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Friday, to allow the wearing of hijab.

In a joint statement issued Sunday, the RVM and NCMF said the school will now allow the voluntary wearing of the hijab as long as the wearers comply with agreed specifications.

The wearing of hijab inside the Pilar College will be implemented by the opening of the next school year following a campus education campaign in the importance of wearing the hijab.

The school will also undertake social preparation to deepen the understanding on the Muslim culture to be assisted by the NCFM.

Gerodias said the information campaign will run from this month up to May next year.

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