SINGAPORE – Malay/Muslim MPs relayed to the Cabinet views from their community on allowing nurses who would like to wear the tudung with their uniform, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday (March 23).
The Government came to the view that Muslim nurses could be given more flexibility to wear the tudung some time ago, and is likely to change the current position, he added.
But the issue is connected to other factors and has to be carefully considered, he said.
Ministers have been consulting the community and other stakeholders on how that might be done, he said.
Mr Masagos, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, made the remarks as Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam disclosed that Muslim leaders were told six months ago that the Government is considering allowing nurses to wear the tudung at work.
Mr Masagos had told Parliament during the debate earlier this month on the budget for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, which covers Muslim affairs, that he empathised with the views of nurses who wished to don the tudung as part of their uniform.
But he also said then that this was a sensitive issue best discussed behind closed doors, and the matter drew some criticism from the community in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, Mr Masagos said Malay/Muslim MPs had spoken to many different groups for some time now.
“These conversations are mostly held behind closed-doors, and we discussed frankly the different trade-offs. Most understood why some give and take is needed as we live in a multi-religious country where the preservation of common secular spaces should be a priority,” he said.
On the Government’s shift in position on the issue, he added that when Mr Shanmugam spoke to religious leaders in a closed-door dialogue, “we wanted to assure Malay/Muslim leaders that the Government was taking their views seriously, and considering how we can make adjustments”.
Mr Masagos said his parliamentary speech was a reminder “that we must proceed on this issue in a measured and considered way”.
He added: “We will need a few more months to work out how to move ahead. The Government will announce the decision when the discussions are completed,” he said.
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