I’m weighing in on this issue as a Singaporean living abroad, in a country where everything is possible, the United States of America. Where perhaps, Singaporeans who feel discriminated by such issues can take their governments to court using their constitutional right.
BUT America is not Singapore and I don’t think I want Singapore to be an America as well.
The systems in place here, will not work in Singapore. It may satisfy the needs of a few in the short run, but it may have the potential to cripple Singapore in the long run.
Now, this hijab issue is not new. Some 10 years ago, 4 children went to school in hijab and were sent home and a man by the name of Zulfikar stepped forward to fight for their rights, their equal rights as Muslims to don the hijab in the school. The fight ended with Zulfikar migrating to Australia and I hope he is doing well there.
The issue we have today, is one where we see Singaporean Muslims signing an online petition requesting for freedom to don the hijab in their workplace. I don’t think donning the hijab in your workplace is an issue. It certainly isn’t in my company, in fact, I have hired ladies in hijab and they do a really good job, equal to that of the men. (This is not to say that men were setting the standards. The company did.)
But different organizations have different policies, which may be related to the branding that the organization is trying to project.
So, let’s understand a few facts first:
1 – Singapore is a secular and democratic country. That means you have freedom of choice to practice religion without discrimination.
2 – Islam is a religion which makes it clear that women should cover themselves except for their face and hands. It is however at the end of the day, a choice for the practicing Islamic lady whether or not she wants to don the hijab or not. That is between her and God (and her dad if she is single and husband if she is married).
3 – Government agencies/Companies have rules and code of conduct towards the kind of image they want to project to the public. This is branding.
So, if you apply for a government job and you are outrightly discriminated for your religious practices, you could probably take it up with them. But if they gave a clause for you, then the ball is back into your court. It then becomes your choice.
I have been to several Singapore Airlines flight attendant interview and I have never seen a woman dressed in hijab try for it. Why? Perhaps SIA has conveyed their branding very clearly the type of person they want to hire, that women in hijab understand that they will not fit into SIA’s branding.
Similarly for other organizations, each organization would have their own branding image. Some may include women with hijab, some might not.
I have been in uniform organizations and I have seen women in hijab report for work in the hijab but change out of it to perform their duties but put it back on after duty. I wouldn’t say they are playing with Islam, but its a personal choice they make on how they want to practice Islam.
True to say that when they joined the service, they weren’t in hijab but over time, they decided to put it on as part of their religious obligation. They made that personal choice to compromise, they didn’t demand for the organization to compromise to their religious obligation.
God is merciful as well and our rezki is in his hands. So, if one door closes, another will open and as Muslims, it is imperative that I remind us all that God knows what’s best for us. So when something we want doesn’t happen the way it is, we should thank him for something greater than he has planned for us.
In the best of words, “Relek la brader! Rezki masing masing”.