Likely change in stance on nurses wearing tudungs, had discussed it 6 months ago with Muslim religious leaders: Shanmugam

Discussions with the community will take a few more months.

Nyi Nyi Thet | March 23, 2021, 09:31 PM

Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said there is "likely to be a change" in the issue of nurses being allowed to wear tudungs at work.

He said that there had been discussions with MUIS, and internal discussions within the government. Shanmugam said that they are also "consulting with the community before we make a change".

His remarks were from a dialogue session, organised by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) on Mar. 23, at the Khadijah Mosque.

The session is a quarterly engagement session which discussed the changing security landscape and trends in youth radicalisation.

Talk about nurses wearing tudung occured six months ago

According to Shanmugam, these talks also took place six months ago, with a few Muslim religious leaders from the RRG at a closed-door dialogue.

He had been asked then about "nurses wearing tudung".

Shanmugam had told the leaders that the government saw "good reasons" why nurses should be allowed to wear the tudung if they chose to.

Shanmugam noted that "our President wears Tudung, and in Parliament MPs wear the tudung".

He also said that this was just one of many issues they had discussed frankly behind closed doors:

"Similarly, we have discussed in private with RRG, many issues – on religious issues, terrorism, other issues, and also, on the tudung."

He made the distinction between how that conversation would have to be carried out in public, having to be "careful" about how all this was discussed.

"In public, we are careful about how all of this is discussed. So, on tudung, Minister Masagos said in Parliament that the Government is empathetic, the matter is being discussed."

This was in reference to what Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli had said in parliament on March 8.

He elaborated on what Masagos had meant when he used the word "empathetic".

"So, on tudung, Minister Masagos said in Parliament that the Government is empathetic, the matter is being discussed.

What does he mean, when he says the Government is empathetic? It is that we understand the feelings of those who wish nurses to be allowed to wear the tudung."

While also noting that Masagos had not said it was not possible.

"It is to signal flexibility. He didn’t say No."

Shanmugam then made another distinction between public and private conversations, saying that Masagos had to be more general, because he was speaking in parliament.

A few more months before decision is made

Shanmugam then reiterated that discussions with the community were ongoing, and would take a few more months. According to Shanmugam, the Prime Minister will also meet with the community leaders.

When the discussions are complete, the government will announce their decision.

When asked by Ustaz Ali how long it would take to come to a decision, Shanmugam replied that it will take a few more months, and that announcements "will be made after the discussions are completed".

Masagos also remarked on the tudung issue during a doorstop, reiterating that the government could see "good reasons" why nurses can be given more flexibility to wear the tudung and "were likely to change the current position".

But since the issue is connected to other factors, it has to be carefully considered.

He commented on his COS speech, saying he was "reminding ourselves that we must proceed on this issue in a measured and considered way".

Top image via Shanmugam Facebook