Singapore Muslims told to mend ways: Premier wades in on scarf controversy

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2002 15:48:19 -0000

SINGAPORE, Feb 18: Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong has warned local Muslims
against asserting their own identity and involving outsiders in a
campaign to allow the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public schools. 

The Straits Times reported on Monday that Goh revealed over the weekend
that some Singaporeans had travelled to Malaysia to seek support and
raise funds for their cause following a controversy over the headscarf
ban. 

Three Singaporean Muslim schoolgirls have been suspended and another
withdrawn by her parents after they flouted the ban, aimed at promoting
racial integration in Singapore. 

Nearly 80 percent of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, with Malays, most
of whom are Muslims, and Indians forming the main minority groups, but
the island is surrounded by some 200 million Muslims in Indonesia and
Malaysia. 

Goh, speaking to local media on Sunday, said some Singaporeans were
trying to involve Malaysians in the headscarf issue, and "I think that
is not a wise thing to do." 

Some Malaysian politicians and religious groups have criticized
Singapore over the issue, but Singapore has hit back and accused them of
interference in its internal affairs. 

Goh warned that non-Muslims in Singapore were already wary of Muslims in
the aftermath of the September attacks in the United States and the
December arrest of 13 Muslim suspects allegedly plotting to bomb US and
other targets in Singapore. "And for them now to try to push the wearing
of the tudung (headscarf) in schools will only cause greater concern to
the non-Muslims, so I would advise them to be quite cautious in this,"
the prime minister said. 

He said some Chinese companies might "leave them (Muslims) alone" since
they want to be on their own, making it more difficult for Muslims to
find jobs. 

Muslim girls are barred from wearing headscarves in local schools but
are allowed to do so once they are adults. "But in school, leave things
alone. Don't change the present order of things," Goh said. 

MALAYSIA: Malaysians will not be prevented from criticizing Singapore's
ban on headscarves at school as it concerns all Muslims, Foreign
Minister Syed Hamid Albar said on Monday. His remark follows the
statement by Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong urging citizens to
reject foreign interference. 

But Syed Hamid said: "The issue of headscarves concerns Muslims
worldwide. This is not a question about interference in (Singapore's)
internal affairs. "Sometimes their people comment on what happens in
Malaysia. Sometimes our people comment on what is happening there." 

Asked for Malaysia's official stance on the issue, he said: "What
Singapore wants to do is its own affair. But we cannot avoid comments
from the public. The government does not interfere." 

Syed Hamid refused to comment on Goh's statement that some Muslims from
Singapore had travelled to Malaysia to seek support and raise funds for
their cause, saying he would not respond to newspaper reports. 

The scarf controversy led to sharp criticism from some politicians in
Malaysia, which has a majority Muslim population. 

Nearly 80 percent of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, with Malays, most
of whom are Muslims, and Indians forming the main minority groups. 
 
Source:  AFP 

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