A directive from the Department of Education in the Philippines was given earlier in July for female Muslim teachers to take off their face veils in class. While the directive was initially labeled an “order,” Education Secretary Armin Luistro has stated that this is not a mandate but a “request.”
The guidelines, mainly intended for the southern Philippines where the majority of the country’s Muslims live, were “not meant to impinge on the religious rights of Muslim teachers,” according to Mr. Luistro. He stated that the teachers would not be forced to follow these guidelines and no penalties will be imposed.
The purpose of the guidelines, which the government’s Office of Muslim Affairs agreed with, was to strengthen teacher-pupil relations. The face veil, or niqab, covers the nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin. However, without them, the students would be better able to identify their teachers, interpret their facial expressions and understand and read their lips during language classes.
Mr. Luistro argued that the Education Department does uphold the religious rights of its students and said, “While the Department supports and promotes the right of Muslim Filipino women to wear hijab/veil (or a headdress), it does not compel Muslim Filipino women to wear it.”
There are currently 1,635 Muslim teachers who teach Arabic Language and Islamic Education programs. Muslims make up approximately 8 percent of the population in the Philippines.
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