Muslims Up in Arms Against Discrimination

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A nursing student at the Universidad de Zamboanga (UZ) was asked to wear a short-sleeved white frock in her junior year. This may not be alarming to many, but this standard procedure violated Mirza Guldam’s teachings of Islam. As she prepared for hands-on training for nursing in the hospital owned by her school in Zamboanga city, Guldam, and half of her fellow classmates, were exposing more skin than what is allowed for their religion.

In addition to being forced to bare their flesh, Muslim students also object to the school’s banning of the use of the sacred veil, or “hijab.” Said Guldam, “It is very painful. On my part, it was the first time I removed my veil and every time I go to duty, I feel a burden in in my heart, there is also fear, like we are being deprived of our right to use our veil. We cannot perform our skills very well in nursing because we are not used to remove our veils and interact with those patients, so there’s a lot of pain in our hearts.”

Guldam is now a graduating nursing student.

Currently, discriminatory practices against religious and ethnic groups cannot be penalized and has been a very rare issue with minimal complaints. “As for official documents, we have not received any formal complaints, but there might be some cases that are not documented,” said Datu Tahir Sinsuat Lidasan, Jr., Director of the Bureau of External Relations of the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA).

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), is the closest entity that receives formal complaints on discrimination. These complaints filed include warrantless arrests of Muslims who are automatically suspected for acts of terrorism. The OMA also provides legal assistance to Muslims who are victimized for human right violations.

An Anti-Discrimination Bill (House Bill No. 3012) has been drafted by AMIN Party List Representative Mujiv Hatamon, along with colleagues Algamar Latiph and Raissa Jajurie. The bill will penalize discriminatory acts. These acts include the refusal of employment, education, and delivery of goods and services based on religious or ethnic prejudices.

If the bill is passed, it will punish criminals who are found guilty with 30 days to six months of jail time, in addition to fines.

“There is a need for policy that will define and criminalize discrimination of persons based on religious belief and ethnic origin,” said Senator Jamby Madrigal. “I support the bill. However, as committee chairperson, we will have to hear the opinion of those who oppose the bill as part of the legislative process.”

 

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