Headscarves, Public Servants And Turkey


By: B Goode

When the Prime Minister takes some time off from taking selfies to discuss about an issue, you jolly well know that it is important. Most recently he waddled into the headscarf controversy that was re-visited by an opposition MP in parliament.

For those of you who didn’t keep abreast of the issue because you had lost your main source of news since The Strait’s Times imposed the 15 free articles per month, here goes:

Firstly, don’t be a cheapo. Go and subscribe for an unlimited number of government propaganda news articles so you can read and be brainwashed enlightened.

Or you could download the CNA apps and read all the news to your heart’s content. They share the same news which makes me want to slap that guy at ST who made the decision to limit free articles to 15 per month. Is he stupid or what?

After you have done either of that, read about the headscarf issue and then come back here.

If anyone is grappling with the issue as to why the government is reluctant to allow headscarves to be worn by some (not all) civil servants, look far beyond our border to Turkey.

Although 90% of Turkish are Muslims, the country is constitutionally a secular state. And it might shock some of you plebs to know that Turkey ban all religious symbols including the wearing of headscarves in all public buildings and public institutions.

Yes. You heard it right. ALL.

So unlike Singapore where some public servants such as teachers, the kakaks working the front offices at the CPF or Polyclinics, in Turkey they are not allowed to.

In fact, as recent as 2013, Halimah Yacob for example, if she was the Speaker of Turkish parliament, she would not have been allowed to wear a tudung. And she could not be the President of that country. Or a Minister for that matter. Or even an MP.

And this is the clincher, as the Speaker of Singapore Parliament, she would not have been allowed into Turkish parliament even on an official visit if she insisted on donning the tudung.

You see, the ban is not only on public servants wearing the headscarves, but anyone wearing a headscarf going into public buildings. So technically, if you are a mother who wears a headscarf, you are not allowed to enter a school premises to send you children.

And women are not allowed to don the tudung for passport photos or any kind of photos to be affixed on official documents.

Although some of these rules have been rescinded by the Erdogan government, they are still subject to appeals to the Constitutional court.

What I am trying to point out is that compared to Turkey, Singapore which is also a secular state, is already quite lax in so far as displaying religious symbols by public servants and in public buildings. The difference is that, Turkey which is 90% Muslim, imposed seculiarism more harshly than Singapore which is only about 15% Muslim. And it was only 5 years ago that Turkey has started to roll back some of the anti-headscarves rules. Even then, some Turkish are challenging them in court.

I am not going into why the government is reluctant to allow headscarves to be worn by all public servants save to say that it involves the notion of seculiarism and something else that I am not privy to.

My advice to the government especially to those who are gaffe-prone such as Khaw Boon Wan and Josephine Teo to just STFU and allow the Muslims to settle this debate amongst themselves and make the Muslim MPs and Ministers earn their dues.

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