Muslim community applauds news to allow nurses to wear tudung, some seek more clarity

SINGAPORE – Muslim nurses, community organisations and political leaders have applauded the move to allow nurses here to wear tudungs with their uniforms from November, with many highlighting how it reflects cross-cultural understanding.

But some have asked for more clarity on what guidelines will come with the head gear, and hope that the Government will make clear the requirements on the kind of tudung that can be worn.

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) said on Monday (Aug 30) that it was humbled and thankful to hear the “good news” to allow nurses to wear the tudung.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the government’s policy change in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 29), which came on the back of years of consultations and consensus building among communities here.

“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 a spokesman.

The Singapore Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS) said on Facebook on Sunday that it also welcomes the move, which it said fosters racial harmony, understanding across cultures, as well as an appreciation towards an inclusive, diverse, and meritocratic Singapore,

It added that the move is also an effort to create a conducive work environment for women.

After PM Lee’s announcement yesterday, MPs like Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim took to Facebook to say how they were happy about the announcement too.

“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,” said the Chua Chu Kang GRC MP.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally on Sunday that policies on race and religion must be adjusted from time to time, and Singapore is now ready to make 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,” he said.

“It changes over time. Our values and beliefs as a society shift over time.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said after his speech that the revised policy will apply to more than 7,000 staff, and the updated dress code will be based on a set of guidelines developed by a steering committee as well as an advisory panel.

Extensive consultation were conducted from April to August this year with infectious diseases experts, nursing leaders and Muslim community and union leaders, among others.

MOH has not provided any information about the kind of guidelines for how the tudung allowed to be worn by nurses should look like – whether there are requirements in terms of its size, accessories, colour or the way it is worn.

But Pergas on Monday issued a proposal for a tudung for nurses, which it says it has developed to serve as a visual guide for authorities to develop appropriate, safe and presentable nursing hijabs that abide by clinical policies.

The features of the headgear that it outlines in the proposal include being made from a cooling-fabric like rayon, to have no flaps on the tudung to get in the way of performing procedures, and a stethoscope-friendly design.

Nurses like Madam Rosnita (not her real name), 52, said that having some indication as to what will be allowed would be useful. She has been wearing the tudung for almost 30 years, but takes it off when she goes to work as a hospital nurse.

“It’s a good move, but also will this mean I have to buy more tudung for my work? What kind of tudung will I need to buy, they should tell us what the specific requirements are, so I can see if any of the tudung I have now can be used,” said the mother of four children aged between 21 to 25.