Letters between PM Lee and Singapore Mufti

Nazirudin Mohd Nasir (left) Lee Hsien Loong (right)
Nazirudin Mohd Nasir (left) Lee Hsien Loong (right)

Dear Prime Minister,

We warmly welcome the recent updates from the Government on the likely shift in allowing Muslim nurses to wear the tudung at the workplace. You had explained to the community before that the Government's position was not static and the policy should evolve gradually over time. We are assured that the Government can see reasons why Muslim nurses can wear the tudung if they choose to do so, and note that a decision will be made when discussions with stakeholders on this matter are concluded. With the review, we hope the Muslim nurses will find comfort and continue to excel in their professionalism. On their behalf, I would like to convey our gratitude and appreciation to the Government for its efforts.

The Muslim community fully appreciates that this is a complex decision with many difficult and competing considerations. In our multi-religious society, it is indeed not easy to manage different aspirations and expectations and maintain a high level of trust and confidence between communities at the same time. We fully support the Government's secular and neutral stance in treating various religious groups evenly, while it consults the community and considers the impact of its policies on society.

Muis is deeply appreciative of the opportunities to continuously provide feedback and inputs on many national issues, including on the tudung. Many policies have carefully considered and supported the needs of the Muslim community, on issues such as Hota (the Human Organ Transplant Act), the functioning of institutions such as madrasahs and mosques, and more recently in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. While the Muslim community has specific religious needs, we strongly believe that our religious principles and values underscore the importance of good citizenry. This was exemplified over the last year when religious leaders guided the community to make difficult adjustments as part of ensuring everyone's safety and helping the nation recover from the pandemic.

My fellow asatizah (religious teachers) share this view and are supportive of this approach. On the tudung issue, in my many conversations with them over the past year, they agree that any policy change should be done sensitively without undermining our social cohesion. At the same time, they will continue to provide reassurance and offer appropriate guidance to those affected while respecting the choices of individuals. We also agreed that as social challenges become more complex, we must strive towards public discussions that are thoughtful and respectful, and driven by a desire to strengthen the common good and social harmony. In pursuing one step forward, we should not inadvertently take a few steps back.

Together with my fellow asatizah and community leaders, we will work hard to further strengthen the trust and confidence in our community. As societies around the world become increasingly polarised, it is more important than ever that we affirm our commonalities, emphasise our shared values and pursue the common good together. Singapore's diversity can be a strength as long as we remain united and cohesive as one society. I wish to offer our continued support for the Government's efforts in the policy review, to ensure we preserve our social cohesion and achieve meaningful progress for the future.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Nazirudin Mohd Nasir
Mufti, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

Dear Mufti Nazirudin,

Thank you for your letter expressing Muis' support for the Government's deliberations on allowing nurses to wear the tudung.

I thank Muis and the asatizah fraternity for participating in the Government's consultations on this issue in recent years. The Government fully appreciates the growing socio-religious significance of the tudung to Muslim Singaporeans, and the desire of some Muslim nurses to wear the tudung with their uniform if they wish to do so. We are presently considering how this can be done.

Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where different races and faiths live peacefully and closely together. Our racial and religious harmony is based on treating everyone equally without prejudice or discrimination, and building a national identity shared by all communities, while allowing each community to practise its faith and way of life. We have done this through mutual accommodation, compromise, and trust building by all groups. Over time, we have reached a delicate balance that considers the interests of all communities.

But this balance is dynamic. As younger generations of Singaporeans grow up and attitudes change, new issues and pressures arise. These must be addressed taking into account Singapore's context. Any change we make must be carefully considered and gradual. Only thus will the changes be understood and accepted by all communities, and the outcomes reinforce rather than weaken our racial and religious harmony.

I would like to express my gratitude to you and Muis for helping to build the precious racial and religious harmony that we have enjoyed for more than half a century. Muis has stepped up on many occasions to lead interfaith efforts and strengthen the bonds of trust between Muslims and other religious communities in Singapore. In recent months, Muis' outreach to the Christian and Jewish communities has been crucial in maintaining our social harmony in the face of terrorist threats. During Covid-19, Muis has contributed to our national efforts, rallying and providing timely guidance to the community to adjust their religious practices to pandemic conditions.

I look forward to working with Muis to strengthen social cohesion, and achieve progress for the Muslim community and all Singaporeans.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Hsien Loong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2021, with the headline 'Letters between PM Lee and Singapore Mufti'. Subscribe