The Singapore government is hoping to announce its decision about the incorporation of the tudung as part of Muslim nurses' uniforms by this year's National Day Rally.
This was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (April 10) after a closed-door dialogue with Malay/Muslim community and religious leaders at the Civil Service Club.
PM Lee said:
“I told them that I had concluded that we should prepare to make such a move for nurses because people's attitudes have changed, because in social and work settings, the tudung is now more common...And on its own, we can see the merits of allowing ... Muslim nurses to wear the tudung with their uniform if they wish.”
He added that before the change, though, the government has to prepare the ground, and communicate that this is a "careful adjustment, not a wholesale change".
The prime minister also said that the government must make sure that both Muslim and non-Muslim Singaporeans are ready to accept the move.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli echoed the need to approach this decision carefully, because it involves racial and religious sensitivities, reported CNA.
"We will continue to engage Singaporeans on this matter, I hope to seek everyone's support as we deliberate on this issue, and work towards an outcome that is acceptable to all Singaporeans."
Background on tudung issue
The tudung issue came to the fore during the Committee of Supply debates for Muslim Affairs in March, after Workers' Party Member of Parliament Faisal Manap reiterated his call for Muslim nurses to be allowed to wear the tudung, and in the process, allow more tudung-wearing Muslim women to join the nursing profession.
Masagos then replied that allowing tudungs would introduce a "very visible" religious marker that identifies the wearer as a Muslim, which might lead to cases where patients express a preference for being served by nurses of a particular religion over another.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam later said that there is "likely to be a change" in the issue of nurses being allowed to wear the tudung at work.
He also revealed that he had told Muslim leaders in a close-door discussion six months back that the government saw "good reasons" why nurses should be allowed to wear the tudung if they chose to.