ARMM execs explain controversial DepEd’s directive on veil-wearing PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 26 July 2013 13:38

Officials announced Wednesday the Department of Education’s directive for Islamic teachers to remove the cover of their faces while in Arabic classes only needs more explaining by clerics and representatives from the academe to be easily understood by the public.

Laisa Alamia, the executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told reporters in a press briefing at the Office of the Regional Governor (ORG) in Cotabato City that DepEd Order No.53 s.2003, in fact, only requests Muslim Arabic teachers to remove their niqab, or the cover of their faces, not the veils covering their heads, while inside classrooms.

Alamia, flanked during the dialogue with journalists by three other Moro women — Regional Cabinet Secretary Khal Mambuay-Campong, Amihilda Sangcopan, who is the chief of staff of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, and the region’s solicitor-general, Sahara Alia Silongan — said the executive department of the autonomous region is in a good position to help disseminate the DepEd order.

Amir Mawalil, managing chief of the ARMM’s Regional Communication’s Group, said they are ready to initiate an information campaign on the context of the order with the help of the regional education department and experts from the Madaris Education Bureau, which is overseeing Islamic classes in public school campuses.

“The order says only the niqab, or the veil that covers the face, not the cover of the head, may be removed during Arabic classes to promote better relationship between students and teachers and for students to see the movements of their teachers’ lips when they teach Arabic language,” explained Alamia, a human rights lawyer.

Certain groups have earlier reacted antagonistically on the issue, prompting Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City, also known as “peace radio,” to generate diplomatic, analytical on-the-air discussions on the intricacies of the DepEd a day before the press briefing.

Representatives of dxMS, which has been helping propagate Muslim-Christian solidarity for over six decades now, were also present in the press briefing at the ORG.

As a strong Islamic tradition, male students are banned in classrooms in Madrasah schools, just as women are forbidden from mingling with men in all-male classes.

Female Arabic teachers only handle all female-classes in school buildings far from classrooms used by male teachers and their all-male studends.

The office of Education Secretary Armin Luistro has clarified, via emailed statement, that the initial news reports on the DepEd order were virtually published with “misleading headlines” as if leading readers to believe that Muslim teachers have been instructed not to wear veils when inside classrooms.

“What the order actually states is that teachers handling Arabic language and Islamic values education are requested to remove the veil covering the face (niqab) when teaching in the classrooms. This is to promote better teacher-pupil relationship and to support effective language teaching since seeing the teacher’s lips helps in the correct production of letter sounds,” the statement said.

The statement from Luistro’s office also pointed out that the directive was only a reiteration of the department’s old Order No. 53 s.2001, dubbed “Strengthening the Protection of Religious Rights of Students.”

Functions and powers of the DepEd have fully been devolved to the ARMM based on the region’s first charter, R.A. 6734, and its expanded and amended version, the R.A. 9054.