The outbreak of the Marawi siege on the 23rd of May did not only mark another phase in the history of Moro struggle in the Philippines . It gave birth to different stories that only few of us have heard  owing to mainstream media’s sole focus on the physical destruction that befell the Islamic City of Marawi.

All attention was called to the physical damage obvious to all. All form of talk and planning seemed to deal only with  the reconstruction of the war-torn city.

On the other hand, the sentiments and condition of both the victims and survivors took a back seat. Because of this, I came to realize that few of the voices of the affected people are heard and few of their stories are put into light.

Take for instance the stereotypes geared toward the Muslim women wearing niqab, a veil for covering the hair and face except for the eyes .  Wearing niqab especially  means “seeking the love (of Allah SWT)”. A niqab worn by a Muslimah, Muslim woman is “just an extra degree of hijab and thus whatever benefits hijab brings as a commandment of Allah SWT, niqab brings an extra degree of by being a supererogatory (nafl) act.” (

The niqabis  (women who wear niqabs) whom I have interviewed about their experiences of the Marawi Siege shared  diificult experiences of being forced to remove their Niqab at checkpoints, of being branded as  Maute members or terrorists for wearing black garments that cover their entire bodies.    They entertain the thought of staying home while the war raged on for fear of false accusations of being Maute sympathizers.

We forget that they are also  victims just like any other who evacuated from Marawi city. In fact, they find themselves in double jeopardy as victims of war and victims of discrimination.

The niqabis, fear that they will be subjected to further interrogation and thorough inspection by the military situated at checkpoints. Their belief and practice is put under such indignation and they are ripped off their freedom.  For the sake or in the guise of public security, their human  rights are violated.

As one niqabi shared “The beauty of our Niqab  should be revered again…don’t judge us because you don’t know us. Please do not mock us .” These Filipino Meranaw niqabis share the same fate with Muslim women in other parts of the world.

In  the European Union,  particularly France “women can be fined for wearing a face veil, while anyone who uses threats and violence to forces a woman to wear a veil risks a €30,000 fine and a year in prison” while in Belgium, “women who cover their faces in public places like streets and parks can be fined and sentenced to up to seven days in jail” that is according to report.

The Philippines should not reach this point.  . If the  Philippines professes to be a democratic country there ought to be more understanding of why these women chose to wear their niqab.

“My Niqab is my modesty, and in it lies my dignity because in wearing my Niqab, I’m dignifying myself and my body” says Niqab Lovers in a blog.

I write about this to raise awareness because the chaos brought to us by the Marawi crisis is not the only thing that hurts us.  , The  unfounded judgements of the people around us are the ones that cut deep. It is as if our presence threatens public security.

This is our reality but it is not right. How do we correct it?  Maybe with your choice of  respect and understanding.