SINGAPORE: The government appreciates the growing importance of tudung for Singaporean Muslims and is considering how Muslim nurses can wear the headscarf with their uniform if they wish, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Mr Lee expressed his views in a letter in response to Singapore Mufti Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir on Wednesday March 31.
“The government fully appreciates the growing socio-religious importance of tudung for Singaporean Muslims and the desire of some Muslim nurses to wear tudung with their uniform if they wish,” Lee said.
“We are currently thinking about how this can be done.”
Home Secretary K Shanmugam said last week there would be “likely a change” in the government’s stance on nurses wearing tudungs during a dialogue session hosted by the religious rehabilitation group .
READ: Probable change in posture of nurses wearing tudungs; issue discussed with Muslim religious leaders in August: Shanmugam
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister reaffirmed that Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where different races and faiths live in peace and in close collaboration.
“Our racial and religious harmony is based on treating everyone equally without prejudice or discrimination, and building a national identity shared by all communities, while allowing each community to practice its faith and its way of life. life.
“We did it through mutual compromise, compromise and building the confidence of all groups. Over time, we have achieved a delicate balance that takes into account the interests of all communities.
However, this balance is dynamic, Mr. Lee said. He pointed out that the younger generations of Singaporeans are growing up and attitudes are changing, giving rise to new problems and pressures.
“These issues must be approached with the Singapore context in mind. Any changes we make must be carefully considered and incremental.
“Only then will the changes be understood and accepted by all communities, and the results will strengthen rather than weaken our racial and religious harmony,” he said.
READ: Government’s secular stance on wearing tudung with civil service uniform has been ‘always clear’: Masagos
Mr Lee also thanked Dr Nasir and religious teachers for participating in government consultations on the issue in recent years, as well as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) for supporting the government’s deliberations.
MUIS has mobilized on numerous occasions to lead interfaith efforts and strengthen the bonds of trust between Muslims and other religious communities, Lee said.
“In recent months, raising MUIS’s awareness to the Christian and Jewish communities has been crucial in maintaining our social harmony in the face of terrorist threats,” he said.
READ: Faith groups demanded to be more vigilant after planned mosque attacks by teenager: Shanmugam
The council also rallied and provided timely advice to Singapore’s Muslim community to adjust their religious practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee said.
“I look forward to working with MUIS to strengthen social cohesion and achieve progress for the Muslim community and all Singaporeans,” said Mr. Lee.
A COMPLEX DECISION, SAYS MUFTI
Mr Lee was responding to a letter from Dr Nasir, in which the mufti welcomed recent updates on the likely change in the government’s position.
“We are assured that the government can see the reasons why Muslim nurses can wear tudung if they choose to do so and note that a decision will be made when discussions with stakeholders on this issue are concluded,” said Dr. Nasir in his letter dated March. 27 and published Wednesday.
“With this review, we hope that Muslim nurses find solace and continue to excel in their professionalism.”
He added: “The Muslim community fully understands that this is a complex decision with many difficult and competing considerations.
“In our multi-religious society, it is indeed not easy to manage different aspirations and expectations and to maintain a high level of trust between communities at the same time.
“We fully support the secular and neutral stance of the government in treating various religious groups fairly, while it consults the community and considers the impact of its policies on society.”
READ: Some places of worship could see increased security, including use of ‘covert’ guards: Shanmugam
Dr Nasir said MUIS appreciates opportunities to provide comments and contributions, and that many policies consider and support the needs of the Muslim community.
He discussed the law on human organ transplantation, the functioning of madrasas and mosques and the measures taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the Muslim community has specific religious needs, we firmly believe that our religious principles and values underscore the importance of good citizenship,” he said.
Dr Nasir said his asatizah colleagues, or religion teachers, shared this view and supported the approach.
“On the issue of tudung, in my many conversations with them over the past year, they agree that any policy change must be done sensitively without harming our social cohesion.
“We also agreed that as social challenges become more complex, we must strive for thoughtful and respectful public discussions, and driven by a desire to strengthen the common good and social harmony.
“In taking a step forward, we must not inadvertently back down,” said Dr Nasir.
The issue of Muslim nurses wearing tudungs in the workplace reappeared recently after MP Faisal Manap (WP-Aljunied) spoke about it in parliament last month.
The minister in charge of Muslim affairs, Masagos Zulkifli, had said that civil service policy on uniforms could not be geared towards particular religious beliefs, in his response to Mr Faisal earlier this month.