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The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Yaacob Ibrahim, has spoken up for the first time about professionals wearing a Muslim headscarf in the workplace since the debate began in September.
In a note on his Facebook page, Dr Yaacob said Singaporeans enjoy the freedom of religion, and many employers has exercised flexibility in allowing Muslim women to wear a hijab at work.
“But some professions require uniforms which do not include the hijab,” he said.
“Most Muslims recognise that if we allow employees or officers to modify their uniforms for religious reasons, particularly for the police and the military, it would be very problematic.
“We do not allow police officers or SAF servicemen to wear or display conspicuous religious symbols on their uniforms or their faces. Nor do we allow Muslim police women officers to wear the hijab on duty. But when they are out of uniforms, they are free to wear the hijab, as indeed many do going to and from work.”
This issue was first raised back in September when a lecturer asked why nurses were not allowed to wear a hijab. This then turned into a debate regarding front-line officers and eventuated in an online petition in October, which aimed to garner 20,000 signatures. This was taken down earlier this month.
Then, Former Mufti Shaikh Syed Isa Semait became caught up in the controversy after he said the petition might inflate misunderstandings.
Dr Yaacob said Malay Members of Parliament from the People’s Action Party has discussed the issue with the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. He also said they attacks via social media against former and current Muftis are “completely uncalled for”.
“They will not bring the discussions forward, much less solve any problems. Such behaviour reflects badly on those who engage in it. Let us always treat each other with due respect, whether in our own Muslim community or when engaging those belonging to other faiths,” he wrote on Facebook.
He then urged members of the Malay-Muslim community to remain patient, as “constructive dialogue” is needed to promote better mutual understanding “of the diverse needs and requirements in our multi-racial and religious society”.
“Negotiating our common space in a way that all are comfortable with is a continuing work in progress. Muslims have to do this, as do people of other faiths,” he wrote.
“We have come a long way together as a society, and we should approach the adjustments that will be needed from time to time with the same spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.”