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 - War On Hijab

    The hijab ban in Singapore

    The hijab has been banned in public schools in Singapore since 2002. The ban was publicised as an attempt to create religious and racial harmony in a divided society.

    Country Briefing: SINGAPORE

    The headscarf ban was introduced into schools in Singapore in 2002 as an attempt to avoid racial and religious tensions between its ethnic Chinese majority and the Malay Muslim minority, which constitutes around 15% of the population. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong has said the ban is aimed at promoting racial harmony. However, Sikhs have been allowed to continue wearing the turban, a religious obligation for them, without the same argument being used.

    In 2002, two young Muslim girls in Singapore were suspended from school for wearing Islamic headscarves. "The principal hugged my daughter and told us she can still return on condition that we complied with the rules," said Mr Mohamad. He said he felt he could not contravene the commands of Islam and disobey his God.

    However, as his daughter was aged seven, he said he would allow his daughter to remove the headscarf if the government gave written assurance that she would be allowed to start wearing it again when she reached puberty or secondary school.

    The ban does not affect private religious schools. However, most of these are full to capacity, so did not offer a real alternative to the girls’ parents. Politicians from neighbouring Malaysia offered to consider taking the veiled schoolgirls into Malay schools. This caused some political tension, but salvaged the girls’ early schooling.

    The ban has spread to other public institutions. “Scarves (Hijab) are seen as religious symbols in Singapore schools and they are also banned in some government departments such as hospitals and clinics forcing Muslim women to throw away their head scarves when they are at work,” Sharifah Alwani, a teacher in a religious school in Geyland. Many Muslims in Singapore feel they are being deliberately marginalised by a power-hungry Chinese majority.

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