Workers’ Party’s Member of Parliament Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap raised a parliamentary question yesterday (7 Apr) on the lack of halal food onboard ships in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). This deprived Muslim men from serving in RSN ships he said.
In replying to him, Senior Minister of State for Defence, Maliki Osman said:
“The preparation of halal foods require strict adherence to the religious stipulations governing the food stalls, preparation and even storage. So for Navy ships, space is always a premium — which needs to be maximised and prioritised — for key operational requirements in terms of combat systems and equipment spares.”
Mr Faisal then raised a supplementary question. In reminding the Defence Minister about a speech he gave to a group of students and academics during a forum organised by government feedback arm Reach and the National University of Singapore, where the Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that it was difficult to have a halal kitchen in confined spaces such as those aboard Navy vessels, the opposition MP reiterated his call for halal kitchens on ships.
Replying to the WP MP’s question, Mr Ng said that Mr Faisal was only championing for Muslims, but that the “Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) operational concerns must come first and individual needs sometimes must (be) subsumed under that.”
Reacting to the exchange in Parliament on the topic in Facebook, lawyer and former Director of the Association of Muslim Professionals, Mr Nizam Ismail said:
“It gets tenuous when the justification for what is essentially a discriminatory practice is on the non availability of a halal kitchen.
Please, there are many ways to resolve this. It’s not rocket science.
If the issue is still one of distrust of a Malay Singaporean son in defending his country, then say it as it is.
The fact remains that there is an under-representation of Malay NSmen in several “sensitive” positions of the SAF, RSAF and RSN.
And an over-representation of Malay NSmen in the SCDF and SPF.
And a significant portion of Madrasah boys are not called up for NS.
This has nothing to do with food.
Or space for halal kitchen.
It’s tragic that we are still debating this after 50 years of independence.
If you truly believe in multiculturalism, there must be no space for discrimination.
If you truly believe in multiculturalism, there must be inclusivity and equal opportunity. For all.
When will there be a level playing field?”