COTABATO CITY – Once BTA Bill No. 241 becomes law, clear guidelines and parameters will be set for visitors and non-Muslims when visiting the Bangsamoro region and interacting with its officials.
According to the bill’s principal sponsor, Member of the Parliament Romeo Sema, the proposed measure is designed to educate people about the customs, traditions, and etiquette required when interacting with Muslims, who have distinct identities.
Sema said that the bill lays the foundation for a moral governance framework where every employee is reminded of their duty to uphold righteousness as an act of worship.
“This effort is a way of promoting the halal industry and promoting our uniqueness from the rest,” said Sema.
He emphasized that cultural sensitivity is “a crucial aspect of building harmonious communities,” and knowledge is the key to fostering this sensitivity.
The proposed measure will apply to all offices within the Bangsamoro government, including local government units, stores, business enterprises, airports, sea ports, terminals, organizations, chapters, branches, sub-offices located and operating within BARMM, establishments employing Muslims, and all individuals residing or visiting the region.
Under the legislation, designated clean prayer spaces and washing facilities with sufficient water for ablution must be provided for Muslim worshippers.
It also standardizes the greetings “Assalamualaikum” (peace be upon you) when meeting or addressing groups and “Bismillah hir Rahman-neer Raheem” (In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful) at the start of activities.
The bill permits men to shake hands with fellow men but prohibits men from shaking hands or hugging a Muslim woman unless they are her mahram, as per Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).
It also encourages segregated gathering areas for men and women during official activities to create a safe space for each gender.
Both male and female employees are expected to dress modestly and with dignity.
Muslim women are expected to adhere to the dress code that requires them to cover their hair and wear a headscarf or hijab. As a sign of respect for their Muslim coworkers, non-Muslim women are encouraged to dress modestly, even if they are not required to wear hijab.
Men should always wear attire that covers them from the navel to the knees.
Official meetings, sessions, or work hours must include a break of at least 15 minutes during each prayer time to allow Muslim employees to perform their salah or prayer.
Large-scale events on Fridays are also discouraged to allow worshippers to perform their Salahtul Juma’ah and other faith-related obligations.
Strenuous activities that may hinder Muslims from fasting during Ramadan are discouraged.
Offices and organizations hosting Muslim personnel or participants are obligated to serve only halal foods from halal establishments.
Said bill is co-authored by MPs Ali Montaha Babao, Muslimin Jakilan, Albakil Jikiri, Faisal Karon, Tarhata Maglangit, Hamid Malik, Abdulkarim Misuari, Nurredha Misuari, Adzfar Usman, Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, Susana Anayatin, Matarul Estino, Abdullah Gayak, Hatimil Hassan, Denmartin Kahalan, Atty. Ishak Mastura, Amilbahar Mawalil, Froilyn Mendoza, Atty. Rasol Mitmug Jr., Nabila Margarita Pangandaman, Atty. Randolph Parcasio, Ramon Piang Sr., Ali Sangki, Bassir Utto, Abdulwahab Pak, and Atty. Jose Lorena. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)