Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, on Sunday announced that female Muslim staff in Singapore’s public healthcare, including nurses, are allowed to wear hijab or “tudung” as an add-on to their uniforms starting November.
He noted that wearing tudung became increasingly important for the Muslim community, and for many Muslim women it is an important part of their faith and expression of a “deeply-felt” identity.
Lee also pointed out how attitudes towards the tudung issue among local Muslims have changed over the years.
“It reflects a general trend of stronger religiosity in Islam, around the world, in Southeast Asia, and in Singapore,” said Lee during National Day rally.
“The change is gradual but over a generation, the shift is quite obvious. The government fully understands the desire of more Muslim women to wear the tudung,” he added.
He also said non-Muslims have become more used to see Muslim women wear the tudung, while younger Singaporeans are more accepting of racial and religious differences.
“We would first make sure that everyone — Muslims and non-Muslims — understood and accepted the change because the tudung is not just a matter for Muslims. It is a national issue,” the prime minister also noted.
The Health Ministry said the revised uniform policy will be applied to more than 7,000 staff.
But the status quo for the Singapore Armed Forces, Home Team Academy of the Home Affairs Ministry, and other uniformed services must be maintained.
“They are impartial and secular arms of the state. They wield armed force, and enforce the laws of Singapore. They must always be seen to be doing so without fear or favor. Therefore, everyone wears the same uniform,” he explained.
* Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita with Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta