The Meranaw woman and her hijab

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By Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph

Only a Meranaw

Monday, February 3, 2014


HIJAB, a head cover used by Muslim women, is novel to the Meranaws.

Traditionally, women in Lanao don’t wear hijab the way we see them today. It was only after the introduction of Islam in the country where a major paradigm shift was made for all Meranaw women. Nonetheless, for me, wearing it is not just a symbol. I believe that Islam has logical reasons behind it including respect, modesty, courage and protection for women.

World Hijab Day, February 1, 2014 was celebrated and recognized by Muslim women all over the world through formal talks, awareness activities, and the like. While posts and tweets about it flooded social networking sites.

As a Meranaw who takes pride of being a Muslim at the same time, I asked some of my Facebook friends about their own views of the hijab. They had the same opinions but there were some points that have caught my attention. I may not be able to mention all insights here but definitely, we are all proud to have the voice to share these to all readers.

Here are some of the quoted posts:

“Everytime I wear my hijab, I feel protected.” – Rahma

“I feel my being a true Muslim and am comfortable with it.”— Moha

“Hijab for me is a clothing of honor given by God.”— Menky

“Wearing Hijab is a not just a requirement stated in the Qur'an. It’s an expression of modesty and a sign of being a Muslim with good moral character.”— Nahara

“Hijab teaches me humility and selflessness by curbing what I want and submitting myself to the will of Allah alone and His messenger. I consider it as a very beautiful blessing. I am blessed. I wear hijab.”— Sahria

Interestingly, both Meranaw and non-Meranaw male friends have their own thoughts too about Hijab:

“I want to be like Mohamadali (the legendary boxer) who once said to his daughter: Precious and expensive things like diamond, gold, oil, rubies silicon, uranium etc. are hidden deep under. I want you my child to be that.” – Yusoph

“One of the best things that I love about my wife is her way of wearing hijab. In my sight, she is the most beautiful woman.”— Zed

“For a woman to wears the hijab shows an act of courage and strength of character because she is not afraid of any judgment from others on how she dresses.” – Junver (non-Meranaw)

Even if above appreciations of hijab exist, some Meranaw women in the Philippines have their own confused feelings in wearing the hijab. Like in Sahria’s account, “...there were several instances when I ride a bus that some would not sit beside me probably because of fear. Security guards at the mall or at the MRT and LRT stations and even at the airport would give extra time checking on me and my bag or baggage whenever I would pass.”

In fact, I know of some Meranaws in the Metro cities who can’t wear their hijab because of hesitations, difficulty or even fear of being discriminated. In some cities, companies prohibit or discourage the use of hijab in their workplace. For whatever reasons, I believe, agencies need to be aware of the many advantages of hijab like purity, cleanliness, modesty and even fair and just employment for all.

For Meranaws like me, we always find refuge in believing that everything in this world is designed by the Almighty for a purpose. It may not be very clear to some but we have to remember that we are defined by our own understanding of who we are.

(Ms. Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph is currently the chairperson of the Communication and Media Department, Mindanao State University, Marawi City.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 03, 2014.

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