Tudung issue: Govt's position not static, change must be gradual

SINGAPORE - The tudung issue is about a broader question of what kind of society Singapore wants to build, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday.

Mr Lee said this after a two-hour dialogue at the Old Police Academy with more than 100 leaders and representatives from the Malay community over the Muslim headscarf.

He said he understood the position of those who want women who are in the frontline in the public service, or uniformed personnel, to be able to wear the tudung, reported The Straits Times online.

But the issue is broader than the tudung itself and is about "what sort of society do we want to build in Singapore".

Said Mr Lee: "It is a question which we faced right from independence. In fact, it is the reason we became independent.

"That is, we are in Singapore to build a multiracial society, where everyone has full and equal opportunities, where the minority community can live its own way of life, practise its faith to the maximum way possible and not be oppressed, or marginalised, by the majority."

Mr Lee added that the Government's position on the issue has not been static, reported Channel NewsAsia.

"If we are going to have anything happen which can change the status quo, we want to make sure that the change takes place gradually and for the better," he said.

"We do not want to make precipitous moves, which can lead to either a push back from other communities," he said. He added it could lead to further demands from the other communities, and then, a weakening of our multiracial ties, "which will mean a much unhappier society".

This is the first such dialogue Mr Lee has held with the Malay community on the issue. A debate on this was sparked after a lecturer asked at a forum why nurses were barred from wearing a tudung.

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