Philippine school bans the hijab, sparks controversy

Posted Aug 5, 2012 by Katerina Nikolas
A ban on Muslim students wearing the hijab at a Catholic-run school in the Philippines, has sparked complaints and controversy.
Pilar College in Zamboanga has defended its decision to ban Muslim students from wearing the hijab. Many of the schools 3,000 pupils are Muslim. Ciibroadcasting reported the college president, Sister Maria Nina Balbas, defied the complaints the ban has generated by maintaining the school will continue to enforce the ban. Balbas said “Our origin is Roman Catholic and we cannot deviate from that origin.”
The school is the first in the Phillipines to ban the hijab, breaking the country's tradition of religious tolerance. Alarabiya reported Mehol Sadain, head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, had demanded the school reverse the ban.
Sadain said "Pilar College should realize that while educational institutions can formulate their own policies, the same should not run counter to existing laws and state policies. While Pilar College claims the exercise of academic freedom, such freedom must conform to law and the basic indices of justice and fair play, as well as the corresponding exercise by students of their equally constitutionally-enshrined right to religious freedom."
Sadain expressed the view that wearing the hijab is similar to the Christian practice of wearing the veil. He said “As the wearing of the hijab or the veil is a sign of modesty and obedience to God, it can never denigrate or damage educational institutions. Instead, it can uplift the institution’s sense of modesty and morality without distinction as to religion.”
An online campaign has been launched on on, a global platform for civic action, to protest the ban. It calls on the school to be boycotted whilst it retains the hijab ban.