(Editor’s Note: The writer, honoring the Niqabis reguest and in order to protect their identity, intentionally substituted their real name with fictional ones (aliases). They, nonetheless, consented to have their photo taken and to publish and make public their statements. )
The room was a bit sentimental when a group of six Muslim women, who wear niqab, were gathered for a short focused group discussion with the Communication and Advocacy Sector of Duyog Marawi with the purpose of giving them a platform to speak of themselves.
Although these women wear niqab, their shivering voices rang clear as bells when they shared about their experiences during the outbreak of the Marawi siege.
“In Shaa Allah na komasoy bo so mapiya kapkailay rekami a manga niqabi” (The beauty of our niqab be revered again.) said by one of the Niqabis, while her voice quivered, to which the others agreed (nodded). This was their hope amidst the issue raised against the practice of wearing black clothing, now being associated with the local terrorist group, Maute (otherwise called as blacks) who besieged Marawi City.
The discussion went emotional when these niqabis, began sharing their experiences like being advised if not forced to remove their niqab at checkpoints, being, mocked as a Maute member or terrorist for wearing black, etc..
These women called for understanding and respect from their fellow Filipinos. According to them, although they wear black they are not terrorists. They are Muslims who are also worthy of respect in society just like everybody else.
They concluded the discussion with a message in behalf of their fellow niqabis saying in a hopeful manner,
“We, niqabis, ask to those who can see us, don’t judge ka di kami niyo katawan. Respeto lang ka pkagdam ami oman e pagmock rkami.”
(We, niqabis, ask those who can see us, not to judge us because you don’t know us. This is just a matter of respect for us for we feel every mockery hurled against us.)
Indeed, no one deserves to be mocked because of one’s practice or belief. Understanding and respect are two words that must be considered and put into practice especially under serious and sensitive circumstances involving vulnerable persons. Women, like these Niqabis who are IDPs (Internally Displace Persons) from Marawi, and their shared experiences are something we should learn from.
They happened to have worn black clothing like the Mautes. But they should not be judged or condemned for being Niqabi. In fact, they too are IDPs and victims who deserve our care and respect. They may wear black. They are Muslims. But they are not terrorists.
Courtesy of Communication and Advocacy Team
(Photo credits: Hudaifa S. Macapoli)