Teo Chee Hean
DPM Teo responds to hijab question, explains why uniforms should not vary
Published on Jan 21, 2014 9:27 PM
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday set out reasons for not allowing officers in the uniformed services to vary their uniforms, in response to Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh's question on the the wearing of the hijab by Muslim staff.
Mr Teo said uniforms are to project the common identity of the service, and not just meet operational requirements, and allowing variations would detract from this.
"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," said Mr Teo, in a written reply on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Mr Pritam 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, subject to operational exigencies.
In his reply, Mr Teo said that the requirement of wearing uniforms without overtly displaying religious symbols is a practice in many countries.
He added that the Government has to balance the needs of various groups in Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious 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 said.
The hijab issue resurfaced late last year following calls for Muslim women to be allowed to freely don the hijab in all workplaces.