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The recent public discussion surrounding the use of hijab is not a new one but one that surfaced time and time again in Singapore, highlighting an issue that has yet to be resolved.
The continued non-resolution of this issue exposes the PAP’s brand of selective multiculturalism where Singaporean citizens’ practice of cultural rights can be denied.
In fact the PAP’s multiculturalism only serves to mask its race- and religious-based policies whose net result fosters state-sponsored racial discrimination.
We can see this in its ethnic-based quota system for public housing, ethnic-focused self-help groups and requiring citizens to formally identify themselves racially in official documents – to name a few.
In the current case, the PAP’s refrain that the hijab will cause racial disunity and harm social masks its own archaic policies that divide Singaporean society.
The PAP practices a brand of ethnic politics where it deploys its own community MPs to talk down the desires and demands, in this case of the hijab, raised by members of the Malay community.
The last time the hijab was publicly discussed at this level of awareness was in the early 2000, but what is different this time is there is less of the fear or cause for retreat as a result of the PAP’s veiled threats of racial disunity.
Instead of it exposed the PAP brand of an overtly racial and religious based policy formulation as being out of synch with modern Singaporean society.
What is needed is a policy framework were cultural diversity can be equally practiced by all which in turn can create the impetus for better social integration.
Singaporean society has evolved and diversified over the years and continues to do so. However it is the PAP, through its various race- and religious-based policies, that keep us racially and religiously bound in awkward ways.
The stance of the PAP government over the use of hijab points to the failure of genuine multiculturalism emerging in Singapore as a result of its stance towards race and religion.
It points to a party, so long in power, yet unable to respond to the needs of genuine multiculturalism and social integration but instead indirectly fosters discrimination.
Dr James Gomez is the Head of SDP’s Policy Unit.