‘If turban might be worn by Sikh males, why not hijab’; Singapore debates ban on Islamic veil at work

September 21

Every day earlier than she begins her shift at a authorities hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab – the Islamic veil she has worn since a youngster.

Although minority Muslim girls can freely put on the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the scarf – and a latest case has triggered recent debate on variety and discrimination within the office.

Now Farah has joined a rising variety of Muslims – who account for about 15 per cent of Singapore’s 4 million resident inhabitants – calling for the ban to finish, with a web based petition gathering greater than 50,000 signatures.

“They told me I can’t work here if I wear the tudung,” stated Farah, utilizing the native Malay time period for hijab, as she recounts her job interview two years in the past for a physiotherapist place.

“I felt a sense of helplessness, it’s unfair. Why has the tudung become a barrier for us to look for jobs?” requested the 27-year-old, who used a pseudonym for concern of reprisals at work.

She accepted the job finally however has to take away her scarf at any time when she is at work.

Farah’s case is just not an oddity.

There was outcry final month when a lady was requested to take away her hijab to work as a promoter at a neighborhood division retailer.

Halimah Yacob, the nation’s first feminine president who herself wears the hijab, stated there may be “no place” for discrimination when requested her view of the case.

The retailer reversed its coverage, however many took to social media declaring restrictions stay on sporting the hijab for some civil servants, together with policewomen and nurses.


The debate surrounding the hijab is just not new in Singapore, a contemporary city-state which takes satisfaction in its multicultural and multiracial background. The nation is predominantly ethnic Chinese, lots of whom comply with Buddhism or Christianity.

In 2013, then Muslim affairs minister Yaacob Ibrahim stated sporting a hijab on the office can be “very problematic” for some professions that require a uniform.

The following 12 months, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated the hijab subject was about “what sort of society do we want to build in Singapore”, in line with native media experiences.

Singapore’s police power and the well being ministry didn’t reply to repeated requests looking for remark.

Referring to the division retailer case, Singapore’s president stated discrimination within the office was “disturbing” because it deprives an individual from incomes a dwelling.

“People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else,” Halimah wrote on her Facebook, which attracted greater than 500 feedback.

“During this COVID-19 period when concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater, incidents of discrimination exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened,” she added.


The hijab has been a divisive subject for Muslims worldwide.

Many Muslim girls cowl their heads in public as an indication of modesty, though others see it as an indication of feminine oppression and within the Middle East girls face jail for eschewing it.

In Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province, girls with no scarf have been censured. In Malaysia, Islamic authorities have probed a ebook about Muslim girls who refuse to put on the hijab.

But girls’s rights campaigners in Singapore say they need Muslim girls to have freedom of alternative.

Such restrictions have hindered girls’s job prospects, particularly when the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Singapore into recession and firms are shedding, they are saying.

“Women should be able to practise their religion freely without having to choose between having a job or to practise their religion,” stated Filzah Sumartono, a author who helps run Beyond the Hijab, a web site centered on Singapore Muslim girls.

“This issue in Singapore is only being faced by Muslim women, it’s a strong discriminatory policy against Muslim women,” she informed the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Others urge consistency, noting that the turban – headgear worn by Sikh males – is allowed at work in Singapore.

“Why the double standard,” requested Nur, a Muslim legislation pupil who signed the petition posted on-line in June. She requested to not use her full identify to guard her privateness.

The 22-year-old stated her mom and sister, who work as a nurse and in a non-public safety firm respectively, are each banned from sporting a headband at work.

She referred to as on officers to elucidate the restrictions, saying nations similar to Britain or Australia have modified tack, with disposable hijabs for nurses to deal with any hygiene issues.

“I settle for that racial concord may be very fragile, but it surely’s not simply acknowledging these variations exist and dwell with them.

It’s far more than that,” stated Nur, a co-founder of Lepak Conversations, a web based group.

“It’s about knowing these differences exist, accepting them and embracing these differences.”

Filzah of the Beyond the Hijab group stated the restrictions could make it harder for ladies to enter the workforce.

“Some women don’t feel comfortable removing a part of their identity just to be able to earn money,” she stated.

“Having to put this very difficult choice on Muslim women is unfair and unjust.” Reuters 

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