By: Khan Osman Sulaiman
Our law minister Shanmugam recently mentioned that Singaporeans are obliged to reach out to the Muslims to build social cohesion.
While the government hopes to realise a society that can fully integrate in harmony, on the contrary it has unknowingly perpetuate misconceptions among Singaporeans, in particular towards the Malay/Muslims in Singapore by means of unjust policies.
It would be better for Shanmugan to ask the government to take the lead and not passing the buck to the people and hope everything turns out fine.
Although Singaporeans are obliged to reach out to each other, it is also the government’s responsibility to subserve social cohesion.
A good start would be in school. Psychologist would agree that exposing children to diverse cultural practices at a young age would most probably remove prejudices and racial bigotry.
1. Allow the tudung in school from kindergarten level – Children are naturally inquisitive. They learn and absorb much more in natural classroom settings. Exposing them to such occurrences will help these children to better understand the multi-racial society that we live in and leads to greater tolerance in future.
2. Set up student exchange programme from the mainstream school with the Madrasah schools – We have overseas exchange programmes. So why not have it with the Madrasah schools? These students can benefit like any other overseas exchange programmes. It goes both ways. It helps both students from the mainstream and madrasah to understand our unique social settings.
3. Remove discriminatory criteria for enrolling in SAP schools – We heard of how Malays are under represented in SAP schools. The criterion to speak Mandarin to be eligible for enrolling of one’s child, automatically exclude majority of the Malay/Muslims students to be eligible. This criterion unwittingly segregates the populace. There are students who went to SAP schools and study up to higher level without having the experience of associating themselves with other races and cultures except the one where they come from. How does that help to build social cohesion?
4. Put an end to the unwritten policy that forbid the Malays/Muslim from entering certain restricted areas in the RSAF. We heard and read of many accounts even from the non-Malays of how they (Malays) were prevented from entering the premises just because they are of a certain race. At this level, continuing with such atrocious policies only seek to preserve the misconception the general masses have on the Muslims.
5. Lift the ban on hijabs to be worn in uniformed groups – The narrative from the government is that allowing it will cause racial disharmony and harm social cohesion. On what basis does the Government has to support its claim? Policies that are discriminatory, when implemented must be of substantive reasoning else it runs the risk of creating ill-will between the people.
I believe the above is a good start for the government to initiate in building greater cohesion among the people. Passing the buck to the populace is not going to help much when it actively maintain policies that prevents the society from integrating positively.
The baton is now over to you Mr Shanmugam.
republished from Khan Osman Sulaiman’s Facebook.
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