Responding to Member of Parliament (MP) Tin Pei Ling’s Motion on ‘Aspiration of Singapore Women’, opposition MP Faisal Manap called for a change in government policy to allow the wearing of the hijab in the public sector’s uniformed professions. The Parliamentary proceedings which was debating the motion of affirming “familial, social and economic contributions of Singapore women and its support for them to fulfil their family and career aspirations and to be future-ready”, took an unexpected turn after Mr Faisal made this call.
Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli rose to allege that Mr Faisal was sowing discord and divisiveness, with his habit of “subtly” raising issues sensitive to Muslims. Mr Faisal responded saying that these issues are not easy to resolve, which was why he has been persistently asking the Government how to resolve it.
“If I don’t bring up these issues here this (in Parliament), where else can I as an elected MP voice the concerns of the community?” Mr Faisal asked.
Mr Masagos replied him saying that there are other ways to raise such sensitive issues – such as engaging people quietly behind the scenes.
Parliament is the forum for serious discussion on important issues. This Parliament has not shied away from discussing difficult or contentious matters – last November we had a vigorous debate on changes to the Elected Presidency.However some sensitive issues of race and religion have no easy or immediate solutions. The best way to make progress on them is quietly, outside the glare of publicity. Championing divisive issues publicly, to pressure the government and win communal votes, will only stir up emotions and damage our multi-racial harmony. In the debate on “Aspirations of Singapore Women”, WP MP Faisal Manap brought up the tudung issue again. Minister Masagos Zulkifli challenged Mr Faisal and explained why this was unwise. He spoke with courage and conviction. You can watch their exchange here: https://youtu.be/MzIR8NUqPGw. – LHL (Gov.sg Video)
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, 4 April 2017
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong weighed in on the issue in his Facebook and said that some sensitive issues of race and religion have no easy or immediate solutions.
“The best way to make progress on them is quietly, outside the glare of publicity,” Mr Lee said. Adding: “Championing divisive issues publicly, to pressure the government and win communal votes, will only stir up emotions and damage our multi-racial harmony.”
Mr Lee praised Minister Masagos for speaking with courage and conviction in challenging Mr Faisal.
In a statement issued on the topic in 2013, the Workers’ Party (of which Mr Faisal is a member of) had urged that the hijab issue not be politicised and that officers from the uniformed profession should be involved in the dialogue on the topic.
“WP recognises the genuine desire and aspirations of Muslim Singaporeans who seek a change in government policy to allow the wearing of the hijab in the public sector’s uniformed professions.
WP observes that over the years, Singaporeans have grown accustomed to working Muslim women who choose to don the hijab in government offices, as nurses in some private hospitals, in schools as teachers and even as participants at National Day parades. We recognise that good relations exist among our communities in Singapore, and believe that this will decide how far each group can practice their religion in an environment of tolerance and mutual respect.” – WP’s statement on the issue