'Cloth thingy on your head': Sikh man's discriminatory experience applying for job goes viral

PHOTO: PHOTO: Facebook / Parvitar Singh

[UPDATE: The agency has since made an apology and acknowledged that the employee's actions were uncalled for]

Today (July 21) marks Racial Harmony Day, a uniquely Singaporean commemoration of the nation's racial diversity. 

But as Facebook user Parvitar Singh noted in a series of viral posts, there is still much to overcome. 

On Monday (July 20), the man shared a recent experience while applying for a job in “a certain organisation for business needs”. The role, he said, entails a certain level of face-to-face interaction. 

He received a phone call from the employer relaying the good news that he was suitable for the job, but it apparently arrived with a side of cultural ignorance. 

According to Singh, the caller stated that the organisation would not be comfortable with his turban — a religious headwear the caller described as “the cloth thingy”. 

He responded by bringing up his rights to work and live as a Singaporean Sikh, one who faced no issues while serving in the Republic of Singapore Air Force. The lady on the phone then expressed her shock that he was in the air force, Singh wrote.

No longer willing to entertain her call, he stated that he would be lodging an official report to the authorities, to which the lady started apologising “profusely”.

“Not the first time this has happened and it is a bit appalling that as a citizen of this country I am being told I can't conduct myself with my turban on,” Singh mentioned, adding that he would be escalating the matter to ensure no one else “becomes a victim of such discrimination”. 

Had applied to a certain organization for business needs which entails a certain level of face to face interaction....

Posted by Parvitar Singh on Sunday, July 19, 2020

In a follow-up to his original post, which garnered more than 2,000 reactions and shares, he thanked netizens for their support and explained that he was getting legal advice on how to tackle the matter. 

“Also got in touch with the agency to have their directors contact me as a way of clarifying themselves, issuing an official apology and updating me the next course of action they would take against their agent,” he wrote. 

Though disappointed by the experience, Singh clarified that he would give the company a chance to contact him before deciding to lodge a report against them. 

“It is my constitutional right to live and work in this country unprejudiced. I have served my National Service and had the honour to serve my nation with my turban,” he wrote.

“Let us always unite to combat discrimination and racism of any sort. It doesn't have any place in our society, our amazing country.”

Update: Thank you all for your outpouring support. In touch with the relevant people and getting legal advice on how...

Posted by Parvitar Singh on Sunday, July 19, 2020

Responding to calls by various netizens to reveal the organisation, Singh asserted last night that he would not be outing the company, refusing to “promote in any online smearing”. 

”I choose not to take their names and still stand by the decision because I am very much against smearing anyone’s name that may cause implications to their lives, livelihoods, as well as their family members.”

He added that the company was looking into the matter, and that he was giving them the time and space to provide an explanation and educate the caller. 

To my fellow netizens, brothers and sisters. As you all have known about 10 hours ago I made a post with regards to an...

Posted by Parvitar Singh on Monday, July 20, 2020

Today, on Racial Harmony Day, Singh urged people to continue safeguarding Singapore’s racial and religious harmony, especially in the “volatile geo-political area we are in”. 

”Let us reflect on how we can start today to do our part in any manner possible to strengthen our racial and religious harmony.”

Wishing everyone a very Happy Racial Harmony Day! The last 24 hours have been quite eventful and compelled me to share...

Posted by Parvitar Singh on Monday, July 20, 2020

Firms and employment agencies in Singapore are expected to uphold the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, which involves hiring based on merit, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status, family responsibilities or disability. 

Anyone with reason to suspect discriminatory recruitment practices is encouraged to report them to the Ministry of Manpower.

ilyas@asiaone.com