The Government has responded to mounting calls that it allow Muslim women to don the hijab or head scarf in all workplaces, saying that it understands those views but has a responsibility to balance the varied needs of different communities with what is necessary to maintain social harmony in Singapore.
"Government understands these community perspectives, but the Government also has the responsibility to balance all these different community requirements, and keep in mind what we need to maintain overall social harmony," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in a statement on Tuesday.
There are certain public sector professions that require uniforms which do not include the hijab. Those in the Police force and military service also cannot wear or display conspicuous religious symbols on their uniforms or faces.
This week a Facebook page called the Singapore Hijab Movement was launched and has garnered 17,991 likes. The Fellowship of Muslim Students Association also issued a statement on Monday calling on the Government to form a committee to discuss this issue further.
DPM Teo, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said that every community pressing for its own concerns must bear in mind how that affects other communities and how it is seen by others.
"That is the reality of living in a multi-racial, multi-religious society that we all have to internalise," he said.
He added that Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs and the Malay/Muslim MPs have raised the hijab issue on a number of occasions, and that the Government supports the aspirations Dr Yaacob had expressed in his statement last week.
Dr Yaacob had in a Facebook post called for constructive dialogue to promote better mutual understanding of the diverse needs and requirements in Singapore's multi-racial and religious society.
He said that the process will take time, but he was "confident that we will find practical solutions if there is goodwill all round".