Singapore can learn from Johor example

The report on the Johor Sultan's order to a launderette owner to remove its "Muslim only" sign and apologise has lessons for all of us in a secular nation like Singapore (Muslim-only launderette owner apologises, will obey Johor Sultan's decree to remove signboard; Sept 27).

As Singaporeans, we need to speak out against discriminatory business practices that could undermine the religious and racial harmony that has been built over the years in our fragile society.

Regardless of the progress in the last 52 years, we should never take racial and religious harmony for granted.

As a business practitioner and HR consultant, I would like to highlight two discriminatory practices in Singapore which merit our attention.

First is workplace discrimination related to race or religion.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) have reported that over the years, there have been complaints about discriminatory workplace practices which include unfair hiring practices and asking inappropriate questions during job interviews.

Businesses or employers should implement fair employment practices (consisting of hiring practices that are fair, merit-based and non-discriminatory) which make good business sense.

It is also the right thing to do in a workforce such as Singapore's, with its diverse ethnic, religious, age and gender make-up.

Second is the advertising for rental of apartments by owners of private residential properties, which routinely exclude individuals from tenancy based on ethnicity.

These advertisements are typically placed by real estate agents who often find themselves in the position of sieving out tenants based on unit owners' ethnic preferences.

I believe that from time to time, Singaporeans and businesses alike need to be reminded of the penalty under the Sedition Act or the Penal Code, for race-or religion-related offences.

In particular, the section of the Sedition Act which makes it an offence "to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population".

Sattar Bawany (Professor)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore can learn from Johor example'. Print Edition | Subscribe