Filipino Host, Senator Under Fire for Wearing Arab Garb on Halloween


A popular Filipino television host and his guest caused outrage when they dressed in Muslim attire for Halloween.

Host Joey de Leon and Filipino senator Tito Sotto wore the thawb on a special edition of Eat Bulaga, a daytime variety show. Mujiv Hataman, the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), demanded an apology.

“This display betrays an insensitivity by these hosts, as they equated the Muslim garb as a costume to be feared, in the way that zombies and ghouls are to be feared,” he exclaimed.

Others in the region expressed disappointment. Imam Rubhaini, a teacher of Islamic religious classes, said it was “so saddening to see them do travesty like that.” Another education official said the men’s “use of such attire for something comical” is what hurt the Muslims.

“We teach our students respect for traditions, cultures and spiritual norms of people with different faiths and here are two popular TV personalities, one of them a national lawmaker, making fun of the thaw’b, as if it is something TV viewers should be afraid of,” commented a school principal.

The thawb is not a religious dress, but male Muslims often wear it while “performing obligatory worship rites.”

“Seeing Christians wear it is not an issue,” explained female preacher Fatimah Bint Yahyah. “Non-Muslims in the Middle East wear it too. The question is why wear the thaw’b in a comical Halloween presentation? That is the issue.”

Sotto said a Saudi Arabian sheikh gave him the thawb and he wore it “as a gesture of respect.”

“He likes it every time I get a chance to wear it,” he insisted. “I wear it to honour him. Does it mean those wearing priest, nun outfits or the national costume are not allowed in costume parties?”

He told the media he did not intend to offend anyone.

“(There’s) nothing to apologise for,” he continued. “And remind them, hindi Muslim garb yun, Arab! And there are many Arabs who liked it. Why will we apologise for something they like?”

Eat Bulaga is the longest-running daytime variety show in the Philippines. It first broadcasted on July 30, 1979.