Press Release
September 8, 2010

Privilege Speech
by Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

Assalamu Alaikum! Peace in the name of God.

Mr. President, this Friday, September 10 was declared a National Holiday by virtue of Republic Act No. 9177. The celebration is called Eid ul-Fitr (pronounced Edil Fitir), an Islamic Holiday that marks the end of Ramadan - the month long fasting of our Muslim brothers and sisters. In other Asean countries it is also called Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Lebaran or Aidilfitri. Generally, Eid is Arabic word for "festivity" while Fitr means "to break the fast". Thus, Eid ul-Fitr means "The Festival of Fast Breaking". It is celebrated on the First day of Shaw'waal (pronounced as Shawal), which is the tenth month of the Islamic Calendar.

Unfortunately, there are still many out there who are ignorant of the religious practices of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and, because of this many have suffered from the bigotry of ignorance.

An important question was raised recently by the Time Magazine: Is America Islamophobic? I would like to borrow that question and ask : Is the Philippines Islamophobic? Mr. President, on this day, nearing the end of Ramadan, I confidently say: No, the Philippines is not Islamophobic. In fact, this holiday is the second major Islamic holiday that we have set for their celebration in recognition to our country's tolerance for religious freedom and our respect to our diverse population.

Eid ul-Fitr is one of the two most revered days among Muslims around the world, the other being the Eid ul-Adha - a measure that I sponsored in the last Congress, which we also declared as a National Holiday in the 14th Congress through Republic Act No. 9849.

To give a bit of a background to those not familiar with the customs and traditions of our Muslim brothers and sisters -- on the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early in the morning, dresses up by wearing the best clothes available. They have breakfast before leaving for prayer ground. The Eid prayer is performed in congregation in open areas like fields, squares or mosques. After the prayers, people visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances and give gifts especially to children.

Eid ul-Fitr is the celebration of the end of Ramadan or the ninth month commemorating the month when Muhammad fasted for 30 days and received the first verses of the Quran in the wilderness of Mount Hira year 610 of the Common Era.

On the 27th day, according to Muslim scholars, the Angel Gabriel handed down to Mohammad the first verses of the Quran which with the Hadith, or sayings, laid down the ideology and dogma of Islam. The writing of the Quran went on for 23 years evolving as the religious, political and social map for all Muslims, wherever they may be. This map is observed in the five pillars of faith, prayer, almsgiving, the Ramadan fast and the Hajj. However, extremist Islam would add a sixth pillar, that of jihad.

Eid ul-Fitr is a joyous occasion with important religious significance as Muslims celebrate the achievement of enhanced piety. It is a day of forgiveness, moral victory, peace of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity.

Mr. President, in the last Congress we also passed a law declaring July 27 of every year as "Araw ng Iglesia ni Cristo" to show our solidarity and recognition of the contribution to nation building of other religious faiths. Indeed, as I have mentioned earlier, we are showing to the whole world that the Philippines is a place where religious tolerance and inter-faith solidarity is possible. In our midst are various Islamic communities established through close coordination of the Philippine government and other Islamic countries. In these communities, our Muslim countrymen are free to establish mosques and Madrasahs. Within these communities, government also provides the basic social services.

However, except for a few who are born to wealth, majority of Muslims are poor as can be seen in many Muslim communities scattered nationwide and especially in the ARMM. I am hoping that these regular celebrations integrated into our national life will remind us of our commitments to improve the plight of the Muslim poor. There are large disparities between the rich and the poor. And it is to our own interest as a nation to bridge that wide income and opportunities gap.

Mr. President, since Eid ul-Fitr is also an occasion for peace-making, I would like to express our sincerest hope to our Muslim brothers and sisters that the peace talks with the MILF and other Muslim separatist movements on one side, and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on the other, under the Aquino administration will succeed. It is our fervent prayer that peace and justice will reign, especially in Mindanao where these conflicts are usually happening. We face this Eid ul-Fitr celebration with renewed hope and sense of unity among Christians and Muslims in the country. I am optimistic that in the coming days the peace talks will resume and proceed without much delay.

We may not have a member in this August Chamber who is a Muslim but certainly we have staff or secretariat employees who are Muslims. Thus, I join in this festival of our Muslim brothers and sisters and greet them Eid Mubarak (pronounced Id Mubarak)!

Thank you and good afternoon.

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