Last Saturday, the world celebrated World Hijab Day (WHD). Less than a day later, Singapore’s representative of the event declared that they have closed shop, making Singapore the first country where the internationally celebrated event was met with resistance.
Singaporean Seri Fatmawati Hambali posted on the Singapore WHD Facebook page last Sunday saying the Facebook group would cease operating because the members of the group had received threats that she claimed could “jeopardise their livelihood and affect their families”. There was no detail about the “threats”.
“We were confident that every Singaporean would celebrate the diversity that marks our society. We wanted to bring the joy and celebration that the occasion deserves. But it is not to be,” she wrote on Singapore’s WHD Facebook page. Seri Fatmawati cannot be reached for comment.
In her final statement on WHD Singapore’s Facebook page, she said the authorities “responded with suspicion and threats” to their activities such as their attempt to seek a friendly public view and conduct ground research last December for their WHD promo video. Again, there were no details of the “authorities'” responses or threats.
In January, Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong said the government’s position on the hijab issue is not “frozen” and will always change with shifting attitudes. He added that many “statutory boards” now allow Muslim staff to wear the hijab.
On the same note, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said, “Singaporeans understand the need to balance what their own group wants with the need to accommodate other groups, and to preserve the common space that all benefit from, especially minority group,” he said.
The Singapore’s WHD Facebook page and its 7009 members have expressed their unhappiness over the closure of their page.
“This is happening in a country where the call to integrate foreign talent is loudly proclaimed by the authorities but diversity within a citizen is squashed,” posted a member, Norlinda Osman.
But among them there are some comments that question if Seri Fatmawati’s post may have been slightly exaggerated.
“Do you really think Singaporeans lack understanding with regards to Muslim women wearing the hijab? As a Singaporean for the past 33 years, I have never come across anybody or experienced anything close to a misunderstanding of the reason for wearing a hijab,” commented Mike Feng.
WHD international was founded by a New Yorker, Nazma Khan, who hopes to use the event to debunk myths and controversies surrounding Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab.
According to the WHD website, countries like United States, Canada, Belgium, Malaysia and Brunie have all participated in the Feb 1 celebration.