DPM Teo explains why uniforms mustn't vary

SINGAPORE- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday set out the reasons for not letting officers in the uniformed services vary their uniforms, in response to Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh's (Aljunied GRC) question on the wearing of the hijab by Muslim staff.

Mr Teo said uniforms are to project the common identity of the service, not just to meet operational requirements, and allowing variations would detract from this purpose.

"In particular, by disallowing variations for religious reasons, we visibly uphold the secular nature of the Government and reassure citizens that they will receive key services fairly and impartially regardless of race or religion," Mr Teo said, in a written reply on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Mr Singh had asked if the Prime Minister would consider studying with the heads of uniformed services the feasibility of allowing the hijab to be worn by Muslim staff, but subject to operational exigencies.

The hijab issue came up again late last year following calls to let Muslim women freely don the hijab at all workplaces.

In his reply, Mr Teo said the requirement of wearing uniforms without overtly displaying religious symbols is a practice in many countries.

He also said the Government has to balance the needs of various groups in Singapore's multiracial and multireligious society, and has maintained a "broad common secular space", even as it has allowed space for each community to practise its beliefs to the fullest extent possible.

"Fortunately, Singaporeans understand the need to balance what their own group wants with the need to accommodate other groups, and to preserve the common space that all benefit from, especially minority groups," he added.

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