CAIRO - Correcting media misconceptions about their faith, hundreds of Philippine Muslim women donning hijab (Islamic veil) joined hundreds of Muslim professionals, soldiers and other Christians in a run for peace in Manila to promote religious understanding among Filipinos.
This run by Muslim women is the first of its kind and its significance also underlines the need for awareness on the wearing of Hijab as an important part of our Islamic Faith, celebrates diversity and peaceful coexistence in the mainstream, Bai Rohaniza Sumndad Usman of Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), which organized the event, told Manila Standard Today on Sunday, October 14.
This is also a good opportunity for us to present the positive paradigm about Islam in response to the different challenges being faced by Muslims.
Marching on the eve of signing a historic peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end the decades-long war in Mindanao, the running groups went along Manila's belt highway Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa).
The run started from the People Power Monument towards the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Grandstand.Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa said some Muslim women in the service will also be joining the run to raise awareness on Muslim religious practice of wearing hijab.
Dellosa thanked Lt. Col. Samuel Sagun, commander of the military's 7th Civil Relations Group based in Camp Aguinaldo, who helped organize the event.
The run is also supported by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Legislative Assembly, civil society peace advocates like Fitianol Islam, Khadija Center for Muslim Women Studies, PeaceTech, Asia America Initiative, Generation Peace, and GroupAid.
It was planned after the Philippine government announced a peace deal with the country's largest Muslim group last week to establish a Muslim homeland in the south.
The deal begins a roadmap to create a new autonomous region in the Muslim-majority south.
The new region will be called Bangsamoro -- the term for those who are native to the region.
The agreement will be signed in MalacaÃ±ang Monday afternoon in a ceremony that will be attended by foreign dignitaries, including Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Donning pink hijabs, young Muslim women hope the run will help spread religious understanding and freedom.
We believe that religious understanding and freedom is a vital step towards achieving peace in our country, said Amirah Gutoc, YMPN chair on Committee on Women.
We are inspired to hold this historic run of Hijab-clad Muslim women as a symbolic response to the negative portrayal of Muslims in media, following the hype by the controversial film Innocence of Muslims that caused violent reactions locally and in areas in the Middle East.
It also comes in relation to the recently discriminatory policy of banning the Hijab in private schools and certain health facilities in the south, she added.
Coinciding with the signing of the peace deal that ends decades of fighting in the south, the event shows a new Philippine that gives peace a chance.
This run is a very promising event as it is also timely with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro region, said YMPN Chairman Nash Kasim.
This goes to show that our nation continuously commits itself in winning the peace and it is our call in this gathering for all Filipinos to welcome this development and altogether give peace a chance.
MILF, the country's biggest Muslim group, has been struggling for an independent state in the mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao for some four decades now.
More than 120,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in the late 1960s.
Mindanao, the birthplace of Islam in the Philippines, is home to more than 5 million Muslims.
Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in the Philippines, which Islam reached in the 13th century about 200 years before Christianity.