MANILA, Philippines – Accused of religious insensitivity for wearing boots inside a mosque in Marawi, President Rodrigo Duterte explained that it was necessary to do so for safety.
During a media interview on Tuesday, September 12, he also maintained that he respects Islam and had no intention of stepping on its customs.
"I respect Islam...It was not meant to disrespect or dishonor," he said on the sidelines of the wake of an army captain killed in Marawi.
Some Marawi residents had earlier criticized Duterte and other government officials for wearing boots inside a mosque during the President's last visit to the city on Monday, September 11.
They had also been offended at how controversial Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson and another female official did not wear a hijab while they were inside the mosque.
Taking off footwear before entry and the donning of a hijab are practices of Muslims when inside a mosque.
Duterte defended himself and other officials he was with by saying they had to wear boots because the mosque's floor was littered with rubble and potentially dangerous debris.
"‘Yung nakita na nila puro rubbles and glass eh. And ano, para ka matinik?...'Ano ‘yan? Papa-tetanus ka na naman?' Makikita mo ‘yan sa floor – may IED (improvised explosive device) nga doon eh. 'Yung pressure, maraming basag na – Gusto mo mag-tinikling ka doon?" he said.
(Wha they saw was it was full of rubble and glass. And what, for you to get hurt? 'What's that? You will need another tetanus shot?' You will see it on the floor – there was even an IED there. The pressure, so many broken things – you want to dance the tinikling there?)
He tried to inject some light-heartedness in his explanation by saying he and the government officials with him are no longer young and will have a more difficult time recuperating from injuries sustained from not wearing boots in the war-ravaged mosque.
"Ayaw ko lang matinik pati ‘yung lahat. Kasi matanda na. Ang pumasok si Esperon, ako, si – alam mo kapag masugatan kaming mga matatanda na, ang tagal mag-heal," he said.
(I didn't want others to get hurt. Because we are old. The ones who entered were Esperon, me – you know when we elderly people get wounded, it takes long for us to heal.)
Duterte was referring to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr who was with him in Marawi.
He asked Marawi residents not to assume he was scornful of their religious practices.
"Do not draw unpleasant inferences because nobody wants to dishonor a religion, me especially," said the President.
While he defended the need to wear boots inside the mosque, Duterte gave no explanation for why Uson had no hijab on. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.