Tudung Issue

February 2, 2002
Singapore Democrats

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The Government’s threat to suspend the female students from school if they insist on donning their tudung defies logic. Racial harmony cannot be preserved by coercing citizens to conform to a certain dress code. In fact such a myopic and insensitive ruling will only lead to greater resentment among those being coerced, resulting in an even more polarised society. Racial harmony is brought about by tolerance from all sectors of society. It is not something that can be imposed by the State. Sameness and uniformity cannot ensure cohesiveness among the various segments of society.

The banning of the wearing of headscarves by the students also infringe upon their rights of expressing their religious beliefs especially if the practice does not the impinge upon the rights and sensitivities of other racial and religious groups.

The PAP Government, for all its rhetoric about achieving a more diverse and creative society, still does not understand that the freedom of expression is the substrate for a more entrepreneurial and creative society. Conformity, such as forcing students to look identical for the sake of achieving the PAP’s idea of oneness, runs counter to Singapore becoming a democratic and progressive nation.

The reference by Mr Teo Chee Hean that Sikhs are allowed to wear their turbans because of a colonial ruling does not make sense. All religious groups should be accorded the same freedoms to express their faiths the way they see fit. Ironically, such differentiation does not help in fostering social and religious harmony.

The Prime Minister’s remarks about other religious groups capitalising on the issue if the Government were to allow the students to wear their headscarves exposes the PAP’s real intentions. If citizens begin to want greater freedom to express themselves, this is a healthy development and should be encouraged as it means that the people are thinking for themselves instead of letting the PAP tell them what to wear, when to speak, and what to think.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General