Singapore PM meets Muslim MPs over headscarf debate

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (pic) yesterday met Malay-Muslim Members of Parliament from the ruling People's Action Party over the issue of allowing the wearing of the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, among Muslim women in the public sector.

The Straits Times reported that several groups in the city-state have recently called for Muslim women in public sector professions that require a uniform, to be allowed to wear the hijab.

The republic's Minister for Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said Lee wanted to create a conducive environment for people of all faiths to practise their religions freely.

"But he also explained why we must manage and balance the diverse needs of our multi-racial and multi-religious society. Hence the need for accommodation and compromise by all parties," Yaacob was quoted as saying in a Facebook posting, as reported by The Straits Times.

"This is the Singapore way, and has served everyone well over the years. As I mentioned before, it will take time, but we will find practical solutions if we continue to engage with goodwill," he added.

In September, a lecturer asked a forum why nurses in Singapore were barred from wearing the hijab. Yaacob had said that wearing a Muslim headscarf at the workplace would be “very problematic” for some professions, while urging the Malay-Muslim community to remain patient. Prior to that, the hijab issue was raised by a committee tasked to get feedback on Muslim concerns, Suara Musyawarah.

The issue also led to the launching this week of the Singapore Hijab Movement, whose Facebook page attracted some 20,000 likes.

"Hijab represents modesty and dignity. Let's champion this cause with similar modesty and dignity that the hijab represents," said a posting on the Facebook.

Muslim women working in such professions as nursing, police force and military service are currently not allowed to wear hijab or other religious symbols.

Muslims, mostly Malays, account for some 15% of Singapore's population. - November 6, 2013.


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