The Singapore Hijab Movement Facebook page, which garnered over 26,000 likes in the span of a few weeks, has been removed from Facebook for unknown reasons yesterday.
The Facebook group has called on the Singapore government to loosen its ban on the wearing of the hijab, a Muslim headscarf, for women who work in public sector organizations that require a uniform.
There was every indication that the movement was gathering even more steam prior to the page’s removal. A Google cache of the page showed that the administrator has been sharing quotes pertaining to women’s rights and the hijab issue this week, and these postings have gone viral with hundreds of shares on Facebook.
Engagement appeared to be high too, with the number of people “talking about this” outstripping the number of likes, indicating that the page’s participants are still actively advocating against the hijab ban.
So far, the government has not shifted its stance on the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the government has to maintain social harmony even though it understands the community’s views. He told The Straits Times:
Every community when it presses for its own concerns must bear in mind how that affects other communities and how others might see it.
Problematic to allow the hijab?
The debate has been raging for weeks. In September, a participant at a forum asked why nurses in Singapore were not allowed to wear the hijab. The ban applies to Muslim women in the police force and Armed Forces, even though Sikh men in public service are allowed to wear their turbans on the job.
Yaacob Ibrahim, the minister for communication and information, said that allowing the headscarf would be “very problematic” for some professions, and asked the Malay-Muslim community, which represents 15 percent of Singaporeans, to remain patient.
The Fellowship of Muslim Students Association has also spoken out on the matter, arguing that allowing the hijab would not affect religious harmony. A representative told Today:
There is much evidence in other advanced societies to show that allowing Muslim girls to wear the tudung [editor: the tudung and hijab are synonymous] does not affect integration and social cohesiveness. And, in the case of nurses, who don the hijab in Western countries [...] they are able to perform their duties professionally.
Tech in Asia is attempting to contact the administrators of the Facebook page.
(Editing by Steven Millward)