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WP’s Faisal rebuked for ‘divisive’ remarks on tudung issue

SINGAPORE — The debate on a parliamentary motion about women’s aspirations in society was sidetracked yesterday, when Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap spoke up against the ban on the wearing of tudung in certain occupations here, prompting a rebuke from Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

The debate on a parliamentary motion about women’s aspirations in society was sidetracked when Aljunied GRC MP Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap spoke up against the ban on the wearing of tudung in certain occupations here, prompting a rebuke from Minister Masagos Zulkifli. TODAY file photo

The debate on a parliamentary motion about women’s aspirations in society was sidetracked when Aljunied GRC MP Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap spoke up against the ban on the wearing of tudung in certain occupations here, prompting a rebuke from Minister Masagos Zulkifli. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — The debate on a parliamentary motion about women’s aspirations in society was sidetracked yesterday, when Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap spoke up against the ban on the wearing of tudung in certain occupations here, prompting a rebuke from Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

Chiding the Opposition member for “subtly and frequently needling” the Malay/Muslim community with this issue, Mr Masagos said that Parliament was not the platform to discuss such issues.

He added whether or not Mr Faisal had the intent to sow discord was immaterial, as such rhetoric has the potential to disrupt Singapore’s racial and religious harmony.

Mr Faisal, a Workers’ Party MP, had appealed for the Government to reconsider what he described as the Malay/Muslim community’s call to “be given the chance to fulfil their career aspirations while meeting their religious obligations”.

Mr Masagos, Minister for Environment and Water Resources, while acknowledging that religious aspirations are important, said such “sensitive and deeply emotive matters” were best resolved by Government and community leaders via closed-doors platforms, and by working quietly under the radar to strengthen trust and understanding among the various parties.

Taking Mr Faisal to task for dwelling on issues that can “injure or hurt” the Malay/Muslim community’s feelings and turn them into a state-versus-religion case, Mr Masagos added: “He has (used) the platform to focus on differences, instead of rallying people to be united.”

The Minister said the comments made by the opposition MP “could linger in the minds of our community, not only to make them feel different, but even to feel treated unjustifiably and unequally”, and could lead to unresolved feelings and impatience that he believes “one day, will explode”.

Mr Masagos said Mr Faisal had spoken in Parliament on many occasions to raise “potentially discordant” issues in a “strident” fashion, such as the need for halal kitchens on board naval ships, or perceived discrimination of Malays in the army, where there were many other issues to be discussed. These included education, housing and jobs.

Championing such issues in a “high-profile” manner to “score political points” would only “raise the temperature and make problems harder to solve”, he added.

Mr Masagos also noted that “if each community pushes (its) own claims aggressively, there will be pushbacks and animosity”.

Mr Faisal, questioning why his remarks were viewed as sowing discord, said that he was using Parliament as the best platform to voice out the community’s concerns.

As the issues he had raised were complex, Mr Faisal said that he was thus asking “persistently and consistently” for the Government to resolve them.

In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated that some sensitive issues of race and religion have no easy or immediate solutions.

“The best way to make progress on them is quietly, outside the glare of publicity. Championing divisive issues publicly, to pressure the Government and win communal votes, will only stir up emotions and damage our multiracial harmony,” Mr Lee wrote.

As for yesterday’s debate on the parliamentary motion, various MPs spoke about the need to provide more flexible job arrangements, customise SkillsFuture packages for female workers seeking to return to the workforce, and getting men to take on shared caregiving roles. 


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