Singapore—Writer Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh commented on the tudung issue recently brought up in Parliament, saying in a Facebook post that anti-Muslim fears have essentially been validated by the country’s most senior Muslim politician.
Earlier this week, it made the news when an answer was given to Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Faisal Manap, who had suggested that Muslim nurses wear the tudung as part of their uniform.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said that the uniform policy in public service cannot be tilted towards any particular religious belief.
“We don’t want patients to prefer or not prefer to be served by a Muslim nurse, nor do we want people to think that public security is being enforced by a Muslim or non-Muslim officer,” he said in Parliament on Monday (March 8).
Furthermore, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Maliki Osman had joined Mr Masagos in highlighting that Singapore’s approach to dealing with sensitive issues, such as wearing the tudung or headscarf in certain professions, is to discuss them behind closed doors to avoid serious ramifications, which could impact religious harmony.
Mr Vadaketh, the author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore and Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus ( co-authored with Donald Low), took issue with Mr Masagos’ remarks in Parliament.
“Any anti-Muslim fears and prejudices in Singapore have essentially been validated by our senior-most Muslim politician,” he wrote.
Mr Vadaketh added that uniformed public servants who profess other belief systems are not subject to the same rules, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and even Rastafarians, if Singapore had any.
And while he acknowledged that multicultural and secular society has to balance between personal religious freedom and public expression, for him, “it seems clear that Singapore’s current policy is discriminatory towards tudung-wearing Muslim women, who are effectively barred from serving as nurses and other public uniformed professions.”
He addressed the minister in his post, writing “if we are keen to protect the Islamophobic citizen from a tudung-wearing nurse, should we also protect them from a tudung-wearing president? If the Islamophobic citizen is worried about their property being guarded by a Muslim security officer, should they also worry about Singapore’s reserves being guarded by a Muslim president?”
The writer also commented on the matter having been discussed behind closed doors and not in public, noting that not even Mr Faisal Manap, “the opposition’s Muslim MP”, had been present during the discussion.
“Never mind that, in keeping with Singapore’s GRC system, voters elected him to represent the Muslim community. The system’s design has designated Faisal as a rep for the Muslim community yet he is always painted out as a rabble rouser for highlighting the community’s issues,” wrote Mr Vadaketh.
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