A bomb threat received by the administration of the Ateneo de Manila University yesterday morning caused the evacuation of all students, suspension of classes in all levels and the locking down of the entire campus. Two things came to mind as I circled my way out of the deserted campus: How worried the parents (especially of the grade school students) must be when they heard the news of their children’s early dismissal; and what my students must be thinking about Muslims now…”
I am teaching an elective course on Muslim-Christian Dialogue and Cooperation for Nation-Building to college students under the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of the Ateneo de Manila University. I have one Muslim student in class, but the rest are Catholics. Finding creative ways of educating these young leaders–on the issues involved in the Mindanao conflict–and developing in them capacities for critical thinking as well as healthy attitudes of respect for Muslims out of their familiarity with Islamic teachings, is a challenge I continue to strive to respond to and find meaning in.
One day I encouraged the girls in my class to wear a hijab (veil), and the boys to wear a taqiyah (skullcap) to school the whole day as a way of promoting awareness of and interest among members of the university community in attending a forum on Locating Women’s Rights in Islam using the Sharia Framework that our class organized. I received various responses from students. Some of them had the courage to wear the Muslim garb only at the forum, while a few others did so for only some limited stretch of time during the day albeit with a sense of apprehension.
This reflection of Anna Raina, one of my Catholic students who dared wear the hijab to school the whole day makes what I do worth carrying on despite the overwhelming tide of anti-Islamic sentiments that threatens to drown tiny voices like mine crying to keep the hope for peace alive in our wounded midst.