Does non-uniformity equate division in society?

February 19, 2003
Singapore Democrats

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As far as the matter of our Muslim schoolgirls wearing their tudung to school, I remain unconvinced by the Governments arguments that non-uniformity creates a racial and religious divide.

In order for the human beings of all ethnic groups to co-exist harmoniously, we must acknowledge that there are differences among the different peoples. Not only must Singaporeans learn to tolerate different cultures, religions and attitudes but indeed to embrace diversity. This is the only way we are going to be able to mold our community into a vibrant and genuinely pluralistic one.

Unfortunately, the current policy of not allowing Muslim girls to don the headscarves to class teaches our children that if others do not look like them, behave like them or dress like them they are somehow deviant in nature. Is this what our Education Ministry is really trying to inculcate in our nations young minds?

The Ministry has spared little effort in attempting to teach students racial harmony. It has set aside a day to commemorate it, formed committees to study it, produced videos/VCDs to propagate it. What it doesnt realize, however, is that by banning the schoolgirls from the mainstream schools, it is practicing the very opposite of what it preaches. Our students learn not only that discrimination is institutionalised in Singapore but also that Government hypocrisy is alive and well.

Unfortunately, the PAPs do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do attitude is typical of the way it governs the nation. It tells Singaporeans to tighten their belts to ride out this economic downturn but pays ministers lavishly. It tells us to build a gracious society, but the leaders use libel suits and threats to penalize those whom they perceive to have offended them. It pledges to uphold democracy but denies the people their right to freedom of speech and assembly.

Diversity, variety and plurality will encourage the various different ethnic groups in Singapore to look beyond colour and creed. Irrational insistence on uniformity, on the other hand, serves to breed bigotry towards people who do not fit into the mould carved out by an intolerant society.