A Catholic school in the Philippines has become the first in the country to prohibit Muslim students from wearing Islamic headscarves.
Head of the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos, Mehol Sadain, said that he had written to Pilar College in the mixed Muslim-Christian port city of Zamboanga, demanding it to reverse the policy, reported AFP.
Even though the school was correct to claim that it could exercise academic freedom, it should do so with “justice and fair play”, added Sadain.
“Pilar College should realise that while educational institutions can formulate their own policies, the same should not run counter to existing laws and state policies,” he pointed out.
The complaint made its way to the local city council, which in turn, asked the school to reply to the allegations.
An education department policy affirms that Muslim girls should be allowed to wear their headscarves in school, said Sadain, adding that they can also be exempted from non-Muslim religious rites.
Pilar College, which is run by the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, said in a letter to the council that it could not “deviate” from its Catholic leanings, adding that students from other religions were welcome to register, but must firmly follow its non-hijab policy.
“Rules and regulations are explained to them, particularly the non-wearing of the hijab or veil,” the school said. “This is part of academic freedom in connection with which the school has the right to choose whom to teach.”
Around 5 percent of the Philippines’ nearly 100m population are Muslims, according to a 2000 census.