Lift ban on schoolgirls: SDP

9 February 2002

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It is an outrage that the Government has suspended the four Muslim girls from school for wearing their traditional headscarves or tudung to school. Suspension or expulsion from school is drastic action reserved for serious breaches of discipline. What have the four young schoolgirls done to warrant this punishment?

The PAP insists that prohibiting the wearing of the tudung will foster social cohesion. What evidence does the PAP cite to support its claim? No child would take offence just because his or her Muslim friend dons a headscarf. In fact, the majority of the people don't have a problem with students wearing headscarves. It is the PAP who has, through its bigoted mindset, made it an offence for Muslim students to wear the tudung and thus turned the matter into a problem where none existed before. It seems that the only people who find the tudung threatening are those within the PAP.

It is a fact that the ruling is wholly and arbitrarily created by the PAP. There is no evidence to demonstrate that schoolchildren wearing headscarves would lead to social and religious division. (On the contrary, exposing children at a young age to diverse cultural practices will foster tolerance and acceptance.) On the other hand, the four young children and their parents have chosen to exercise their freedom to practice their religion guaranteed under the Singapore Constitution as well as the United Nations Human Rights Charter. For this, they have been punished by the Government and the children deprived of an education. This is morally and politically unjustifiable.

The SDP demands that the Government rescind its ban on the girls immediately and allow them to continue their schooling without further delay.

Meanwhile, the SDP will offer the four schoolgirls free school lessons so that they can continue their studies while the matter is being resolved.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General