Woman referred to as ‘Halimah’ at Bishan Park just because she’s Malay & wearing tudung

Only Halimah can be Malay and wear tudung is it?

By Fasiha Nazren | September 20, 2017

It has been quite a whirlwind week with Halimah Yacob crowned as the eighth president of Singapore on Sept. 14, 2017:

Pic from Ilene Fong.

And the silent protest at Hong Lim Park with possibly thousands of attendees including presidential hopeful, Tan Cheng Bock, showing up to voice displeasure at the process of presidential selection:

Race issues a can of worms

One would think that everything will settle down and Singaporeans can go back to their everyday lives now that President Halimah Yacob is a done deal.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for one Singaporean woman who shared on Facebook her unpleasant experience at Bishan Park:

If you can’t see the post, let’s break it down for you.

1. Likened to Halimah Yacob

According to the post by Yurni Irwati Mohamed Said, a senior citizen had jokingly likened her to the newly-selected president.

While that doesn’t sound insulting because President Halimah was previously awarded Woman of The Year by Her World in 2003 and has a Master’s degree in law from the National University of Singapore, the senior citizen doesn’t know Yurni personally.

She was possibly referred to as “Halimah” because she dons a hijab and was the only Malay there.

“I was at the fitness corner at Bishan Park doing my workout and minding my own business when a senior citizen remarked jokingly and loudly, “Halimah coming! Halimah coming!” I was the only ‘Malay’ there.”

2. Using multiracialism as an excuse

Coincidentally, the group of senior citizens started discussing the presidential elections and were obviously still hungover that only Malays were eligible to become president.

One of them even used Singapore’s multiracial society as grounds to go against the reserved elections.

That’s a fair point, but according to Yurni, the lady placed emphasis on the word “them”, referring to the Malays. This made it seem as if the Malays are exclusive compared to other races.

“We are multiracial. Multiracial why must reserve the election for them?”

3. Saying Singapore is like North Korea

Suddenly, the prime minister got pulled into the discussion.

This was when Yurni responded to them to instead ask PM Lee Hsien Loong about the reserved elections, since he was the one who announced it.

The senior citizens then appeared to be taken aback and tried to avoid a heated debate.

Instead, the man who likened her to the president tried to divert the topic to the fact that Halimah is still living in her Yishun HDB flat and insinuated that it’s troublesome for the residents:

“Now if you live there, they ask for your IC.”

The lady who talked about multiculturalism, then mentioned that Singapore, “Now like North Korea.”

Granted, Singapore didn’t even have an election, but it’s a far stretch to compare Singapore to the hermit kingdom helmed by Kim Jong-un, isn’t it?

Wanting to have the last say, Yurni responded before she headed for breakfast:

“Well, he kept quiet about his siblings’ allegations of his abuse of power. You go and speak with him lah. Why tell me? I never asked for this. I don’t sit in Parliament.”


Here are some things all of us can learn from this episode:

  • It is racist to call a woman “Halimah Yacob” just because she is Malay and wears a tudung, even if it was meant to be a joke
  • Not that many regular Singaporean, not even the Malays, asked for the reserved elections

If you still feel the need to vent your pent-up frustrations with regards to the reserved elections, at least don’t aim it at people who had no say towards the decision.

Top photo repurposed from NParks and Yurni Irwati Mohamed Said’s Facebook page

About Fasiha Nazren

Fasiha is only afraid of three things - cockroaches, her parents and the deafening screamos of post hardcore bands.

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