SINGAPORE - Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah (above) has criticised the Workers' Party (WP) for not taking a clear position on the hijab issue in its statement last week.
The opposition party, she wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, "avoids stating clearly their position on the issue".
"It sounds sympathetic, but if you read the statement carefully, WP straddles both sides of the fence and merely calls for public dialogue," she wrote.
"This does little to help resolve a delicate and difficult national issue and runs the danger of encouraging groups, including those from other communities, to take rhetorical positions and make public demands which they may then find difficult to move from," she added.
Her comments came after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Malay-Muslim Members of Parliament and Minister-in- charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim met leaders of Malay-Muslim organisations to discuss the hijab issue.
The meetings followed calls from some quarters for Muslim women to be allowed to wear the headscarf in nursing and other uniformed, public sector jobs.
Ms Indranee said both the WP and National Solidarity Party (NSP) had, in their statements, presented the hijab issue as "a simple, straightforward matter, with no trade-offs or downsides".
"If it were that easy, we would have been able to solve it long ago, and countries like Turkey (even with a government led by an Islamic party) would not be grappling with similar difficulties," Ms Indranee added.
But, unlike the WP, the NSP, she said, had at least made clear it supports the wearing of the tudung in all places of work and study.
In a statement last week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the Government understood the aspirations of the Muslim community but it also "has the responsibility to balance all these different community requirements, and keep in mind what we need to maintain overall social harmony".
Dr Yaacob called for patience and constructive dialogue to find practical solutions to the matter.
On Wednesday, Ms Indranee said: "The issue is a difficult one. While I fully understand the desires of many Muslim Singaporeans, we also have to consider carefully its impact on our racial integration and harmony."
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