Muslims applaud move to allow nurses to wear the tudung
Muslim nurses, community organisations and political leaders applauded the move to allow nurses to wear the tudung with their uniforms from November, with many highlighting how it reflects cross-cultural understanding.
But some have asked for more clarity on the kind of head coverings that will be approved.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the Government's policy change in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, which came on the back of years of consultation and consensus building among communities here.
The announcement drew plaudits from many Muslim groups.
Yesterday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore chief executive Esa Masood, said PM Lee's announcement demonstrates that the Government understands and is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Muslim community.
"This is certainly progress that the Muslim community is deeply appreciative of, and one that we can attribute to the peace and harmony that we have built together over the years," he said.
The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) also said it was humbled and thankful to hear the "good news".
"This good change is thanks to the patience and prayers of all segments of Singaporean society (and) our concerted efforts and determination to discuss this matter thoroughly, taking into account the unity and religious harmony which we have been enjoying," said its spokesman.
Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim was among many who took to Facebook to give their thumbs up.
"I welcome the announcement that further expands the possibilities of our Malay Muslims. I hope we always keep in mind that regardless of (the) Government's policies today or in future, our collective potential is not limited by what we wear or how we look like," he said.
The move will give more nurses more flexibility, said Healthcare Services Employees' Union president K. Thanaletchimi.
She said: "By allowing nurses to decide if they wish to wear a tudung, we hope that this will help to lower the barriers for Muslim nurses who are keen to join the healthcare sector but have been holding back due to the current guideline on this."
PM Lee said on Sunday that policies on race and religion had to be adjusted from time to time, and Singapore is now ready for this move: "Besides pushing against discrimination and racist attitudes, we also need to keep our policies on race and religion up to date because racial and religious harmony is not just delicate, but also dynamic."
The Ministry of Health said the revised policy will apply to more than 7,000 staff, and the updated dress code will be based on guidelines developed by a steering committee and an advisory panel.
Extensive consultation was held from April to this month with infectious diseases experts, nursing leaders as well as the Muslim community and union leaders.
The Singapore Muslim Women's Association said the move would create a conducive work environment for women. Its president, Madam Hazlina Abdul Halim, said yesterday that the group is ready to work with the authorities to develop guidelines on the new dress code for nurses.
Ms Sujinah Mohamad Suandi, 38, a senior patient service associate at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said she and her colleagues were not troubled over being unable to wear the tudung, but are glad to have the choice now.
Ms Nia Nasyitah Zulkifli, 27, a senior radiographer at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, said the change will help persuade some Muslim women who were hesitant to join the healthcare sector, as they were unwilling to take off the tudung, to do so.