Politics of the hijab

1688

By Mary Lee

One issue that should never have been politicised is whether Muslim hospital staff should wear head covers. But it has become a political issue, thanks to the Prime Minister meeting Muslim MPs and the Workers” Party asking, unhelpfully, for “dialogue”.

Why couldn’t the health authorities simply have ruled that uniformed Muslim female staff have a choice in covering their head in keeping with the establishment’s uniform? And it really is a matter of personal choice whether the Muslim women prefer to cover or uncover their heads.

Thanks to bad handling of the issue – shame on you Muslim MPs for not taking up the matter with the health authorities, because it wasn’t a political issue to begin with – the overtones of racism have entered the scene.

Old photo of Doctor and Nurse in Singapore General Hospital - Source
Old photo of doctor and nurse in Singapore General Hospital – Source

The anti-Muslim Singaporeans aren’t even aware that, a few decades ago, all nursing staff had headwear — for reasons of hygiene(see above photo). In hospitals, Muslim food is served (my choice of cuisine whenever I’m an in-patient, because it’s tastier) in (usually green) coloured trays. And Muslim staff will serve non-Muslim food trays to non-Muslim patients because the food is covered in plastic trays.

Scratch an anti-Muslim Singaporean and you’ll probably find that he/she is, deep inside, a racist. And these people should be called just that. Lose a few votes? Well, win a few more by standing up against racism that’s so thinly disguised here.

Wait – noise is an issue that can strain tolerance. I wonder how many Muslim and Indian Singaporeans hate the noise pollution from the Hungry Ghosts month of auctions outside their HDB blocks. But they say nothing about it because it would be anti-Chinese.

Well, I’m anti-Hungry Ghost auction noise and will continue to call my neighbourhood police post about the racket. The arrogance of the “majority” drowns out intolerance like mine towards noise pollution. But none of the PAP MPs in my jurisdiction will take up this cause. Culture can be a lot more considerate — the organisers of the Hungry Ghost auctions should give out earplugs to all residents of the blocks nearby.

Back to the hijab. Come on, hospital and clinic bosses: exercise your authority — let your Muslim women staff members choose their headgear, and if you have racist patients who do not want to be served by Muslims, well, they’ll just have to wait till a Chinese or Filipino or Indian nurse can attend to them. Such patients can be factually told: “You asked for it!”

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