Are school uniform policies more important than a Muslim student’s identity?
I am a concerned Filipino citizen and student. My Muslim female classmate was asked to remove her hijab for her school ID picture because they needed to see her hair and pair of ears. She refused to do it and explained that wearing hijab is her identity as a Muslim. They were skeptical but later on, they allowed her to have a school ID with the hijab.
She thought it was okay and there was no problem, but months later, she was blocked several times by our guards at the school entrance. She was also called out because of her school uniform. Our uniform has short sleeves; that of my Muslim classmate has three-fourths sleeves which was the reason why the guards blocked her and reported her to the Office of Student Affairs.
She has been wearing that uniform inside our campus for a long time and she even purchased that uniform from our school supplier. The head of student affairs talked to her, telling her that she should comply with our school uniform policy because that uniform is the identity of the university. They suggested that she should wear a cardigan or blazer to cover her, so it will not ruin the original uniform of our school. They told her that they respect her religion, but the uniform is for everyone and she should comply. She now feels that she is not included nor does she belong to our school because she is not allowed to express her religion and her identity as a Muslim.
I feel sorry for her and other Muslim students who experience this kind of treatment. Our school failed her to be free from harassment and feel respected. We have a law that protects our freedom to express our religion, right? I understand that educational institutions can formulate their own policies. However, they should not ignore existing laws and state policies.
The Bill of Rights under Article Ill, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution states: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.”
Should the Muslim student follow the school uniform policies or should the school make adjustments/exemptions to their policy? Is it right that the school guards block her a few times and question her about her kind of uniform? Is this a form of harassment? Does this kind of treatment violates her rights to religious freedom and to be protected from discrimination, especially inside our school?
Name withheld on request