atans1

From the wearing of tudung to single mums, govt always got excuse to do what it wants to do

In Political governance on 18/12/2013 at 5:52 am

A few weeks ago, there was a media report that Halimah Yacob, our tudung-wearing Parllimentary Speaker, had said at a NUS forum that the govt could only help unwedded mothers more only to the extent that society allowed it to: implying, to me, that the govt wanted to offer more help but couldn’t because of societal constraints. How convenient, I tot, to blame the views of society for not doing the right thing by the children of the mums.

Funnily, earlier this year, when there was a call to allow the use of the tudung in the uniformed services, the Malay minister mumbled that it was a complex issue*. The govt could have said “Yes. Society has accepted the wearing of the tudung in public”. After all, it’s a common sight in govt offices, and official spaces where the public is served by un-uniformed staff. It’s common in the private sector, even when uniforms are used. Contrast that with the time when Ms Yacob was in NUS Law School. She wore the tudung but it wasn’t a common sight on campus or in public.

Given the complexities of S’pore’s mix of cultures, religions and ethnicities, one can understand the govt’s caution on the issue of allowing the use of the tudung in the uniformed services. This is compounded, by as I understand it, that the use of the tudung is not banned as such in the uniformed services. It is “banned” in the sense that what is not allowed is prohibited. Only Sikh men are allowed to have traditional headgear in the uniformed services.

The issue that the govt and we have to be wary about is changing the existing rules in a secular society when religious practices  have “moved on” even though secular society here does not have a problem with accepting the said practice. We have to avoid unintended consequences i.e. fear the “unknown unknowns”**.

But, based on the comment that more help for unwedded mums depended on society’s views of their status, made by a lady who always wears a tudung in public even when presiding in parliament I cannot help but feel, no matter how irrational the tot, that the govt is not interested in deciding whether to allow the tudung to be used in the uniformed services. It’s muttering that the issue is complex is an excuse not to make a decision, any decision.

I raise the tudung issue because of something I read recently.

In the UK, there was a public row when Universities UK (UUK) said that, under some circumstances, segregated seating would be allowed if requested by speakers from orthodox religious groups. It now seems that UUK has withdrawn that “advice”.  Below is an extract from the BBC on how commentators and newspapers see the row. Read it to see the ethical issues that can arise when thinking, discussing the ethics of religious freedom and social values.

Class apart

Discussing the papers for the BBC’s News Channel, Westminster editor of the Daily Record Torcuil Crichton said it was no surprise to see the Times reveal that Universities UK (UUK) had “folded” over its policy of allowing the segregation of men and women at certain Islamic events.

“It’s an interesting ethical argument,” he said, “You get religious freedom… but when that comes up against social values and social laws and the law of the land, for example on equality, something has to give and usually it’s the religion.”

Broadcaster and campaigner David Akinsanya agreed the policy had to be “quashed”, but added: “There are other areas within society where people are being segregated, within different communities in the country.”

The Sun says Britain’s universities have long been “the standard-bearers for free speech” – something that has only been achieved “by sticking rigidly to the principle of equality, irrespective of gender, race or religion”.

Linking the situation to that in South Africa, Graeme Archer, in the Daily Telegraph, says UUK “has given succour to injustice merchants whose politics are just as wicked as those who devised race-based apartheid”.

Lastly, in the Times itself, Janice Turner says the UUK ruling may have been defeated, “but the challenges to secular principles that enshrine equality will go on”. Gender segregation, the veiling of women, the push for sharia, all demonstrate, she writes, that “gender apartheid is not a sideshow of radical Islam, but intrinsic to it.”

*He great mumbler. Remember?

— “Worse case scenario” when one LKY said incorrect things about M– alays

— Floods that happen only once in every 50 yrs when they were happening every few months.

— People must get the “right” facts.

“*In Indonesia, where there is an ongoing flip-floping on the use of the tudung by policewomen:

You allow one [religious] symbol, what if other officers from other religions what to have their symbols [displayed on their uniforms] too?” asked Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia, a Muslim scholar and researcher on gender in Islam. “I think officers should never accentuate their [personal] identities.”

Pietri Dona, a 26-year-old police officer who works at the National Police’s communication department in Jakarta and is a Muslim, said that while she respects her fellow officers who want to wear headscarves, she felt that wearing the same uniforms is best, since allowing some officers to dress differently might create divisions in the police force.

http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/12/15/viewpoint-indonesias-headscarf-debate/

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