SINGAPORE - The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has weighed in on the ongoing debate over whether Muslim women should be allowed to don the hijab in professions like nursing, saying it supports the wearing of the headscarf in all workplaces and schools.
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Here is the full statement from NSP:
The National Solidarity Party (NSP) has been following the recent debate on hijab very closely. We appreciate that the Prime Minister has now met the Minister for Muslim Affairs and with other Malay Members of Parliament from his Party on this matter. We also acknowledge that it may take time to decide on this matter, which is of significant importance to the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore.
NSP supports the wearing of hijab in all places of work and study. We agree with Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Muslim Affairs, that constructive dialogue is the best way forward. With local-level inter-faith platforms like the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC) in every constituency, the Government already has the infrastructure to kick-start such constructive dialogues.
Apart from the dialogues within the IRCC, the Government should also explore other avenues to engage with the Malay-Muslim community, so as to discuss this issue in a manner that will give confidence to the community that the Government is listening to its legitimate concerns.
The Government's concern on the impact of the hijab issue on social harmony is understandable. To help it decide on this matter objectively, the Government should commission an official survey to gauge how the other communities feel about Muslim women wearing the hijab in Government professions where it is currently not allowed.
It is especially important to have empirical evidence to support any decision on this issue, because it has economic impact for Malay-Muslim families. Prohibiting the wearing of hijab in certain public sector professions means a restriction of job opportunities for Muslim women who desire to wear the hijab.
The Malay-Muslim community has shown much sincerity in promoting inter-religious harmony and loyalty to the nation. In ensuring the success of the nation, they have made the sacrifices together with citizens of other races, showing much resilience and dedication despite facing socio-economic challenges.
Now, the community wishes that the restriction on wearing the hijab in certain uniformed jobs in the public sector be lifted, so that Muslim women in such professions who desire to, may be better able to express their conviction of the religion. The Government should not be filled with trepidation at this request of the community, dismissing it outright. Neither should it doubt the noble intention of the community.
NSP hopes to see the Government having open dialogues with the community and other racial/religious communities and conducting surveys to obtain empirical evidence to rely on, in coming to an appropriate decision on this issue.
Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, Secretary-General On behalf of the 15th Central Executive Committee of the NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY