SINGAPORE – The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has issued official guidelines stating that although tudung is a religious requirement for Muslim women, they can make dress adjustments if necessary.
This may be to comply with certain workplace requirements, such as dress codes, Muis said on Tuesday (Oct. 26).
Its fatwa committee, a group of seasoned Islamic scholars who decide religious rules here, did not specify the length or design of the headgear that Muslim nurses can wear.
However, nurses can adhere to the hospitals âbare under the elbowsâ (BBE) policy, according to religious guidelines published by Muis.
Like doctors, nurses must wear short-sleeved clothing to keep their forearms bare during patient care, due to the risk of infection and the need to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and patients.
Typically, Muslim women here who wear tudung cover their arms from the wrist upward, but Muslim law emphasizes protecting people from harm and harm, Muis said.
The guidelines were released before Muslim nurses were allowed to don headgear from November 1, if they so choose.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the policy change in his National Day Gathering speech on August 29, which followed years of consultation and consensus building among communities here. This will apply to over 7,000 public health workers.
The secular public service policy on uniforms states that it cannot be tilted towards particular religious beliefs.
The minister in charge of Muslim affairs, Masagos Zulkifli, told parliament in March that the uniform of civil servants is “a visible sign that service is rendered equally without distinction of race or religion.”
Regarding the uniform policy for other uniformed services, such as the police and the armed forces, there will be no change. Mr Lee said it is because these groups are impartial and secular arms of the state who are armed and enforce the laws here.
Muis said on Tuesday that following Mr Lee’s announcement, he had received requests for advice on the details of the religious obligation to wear the tudung.
The council said it consulted and engaged various health sector groups, officials, mosque leaders and Islamic religious teachers in October before developing the fatwa.
He said the principle-based guidelines are “designed to empower Muslims instead of just issuing a blanket general prescription.”
“It aims to guide Muslim women to carefully consider their unique situation and to equip them with the principles and values ââof Islam that will enable them to make balanced and just choices for themselves,” Muis said.
Noting that women play an important role in society and in the labor market, the council said the guidelines âsituate the issue of wearing tudung in the workplace within the broader context of observing the teachings of Islam in a unique socio-religious environment, and subject to existing labor and uniform policies “.
Muis also stressed the importance of ensuring that Muslim women who can wear tudung if uniform policies permit do so of their own accord and without any form of coercion.
The guidance also stresses the importance of social cohesion, and the council said the fatwa calls for strengthening relationships between different communities. This is to ensure that religious appearances and symbols do not hinder efforts to strengthen social harmony in Singapore.
The council said the health workers it signed up with understood the need to observe the ânaked under the elbowâ policy.
“Some also expressed gratitude that the fatwa advised against forcing health workers to don the tudung, as some choose not to wear it for various reasons,” Muis said.
“Others expressed hope that this fatwa will encourage more Muslim women to pursue and join the health sector, including graduates of the madrasah (Islamic school).”