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Dawn/WPost: S'pore school girls suspended - Nik Aziz Writes To Kuan Yew
By Alexa Olesen

6/2/2002 12:54 am Wed

[Kebanyakkan jenayah terhadap wanita bermula dari pandangan mata. Tudung telah ujud beribu-ribu tahun yang lalu dan ia tidakpun mengugat keharmonian ugama ataupun kaum di mana-mana. Pemimpin Singapura sepatutnya masuk ke sekolah tadika semula dan belajar mengenai sejarah peradaban manusia. - Editor]

Two Singapore school girls suspended for wearing scarves

SINGAPORE, Feb 4: A school in Singapore on Monday suspended two Muslim schoolgirls for wearing headscarves in defiance of a government rule, as criticism of the policy mounted from Malaysia.

The education ministry said in a statement that Nurul Nasihah and Siti Farwizah, both aged seven, were suspended. A third school girl, Siti Amir, was absent from class on Monday, the deadline for the girls to stop wearing the scarves.

Another schoolgirl, Khairah Faroukh, was given until Monday to comply with the ruling because she started wearing the headgear, or tudung, only on Jan 14, a week after the three others.

The case has tested racial relations in ethnically diverse Singapore and exposed ethnic and religious differences in a country long envied for its social stability. It has also drawn criticism from largely Muslim Malaysia, Singapore's northern neighbour.

Nurul's father Mohamed Nasser said his daughter cried on being informed it would be her last day at the Whitesands Primary School. The girls had been threatened with suspension on Monday if they continued to violate a government ban on headscarves in school in a rule designed to promote harmony among ethnic groups.

The scarves can be worn to and from school but have to be taken off during lessons.

Nasser said he and his daughter were ushered into the principal's office as they arrived at the school Monday and told about the suspension. "When I told her that it might be her last day she felt bad, she was crying. She was feeling very sad," he said.

"The principal hugged my daughter and told us she can still return on condition that we complied with the rules. She (the principal) said she will not erase my daughter's name from the rolls," Nasser said.

"To comfort her, I promised I will buy her some big coloured pencils," he said. But Nasser, who is among 453,000 mostly Muslim Malays in the largely ethnic Chinese city-state, was adamant that his daughter would not comply with the government rule "at the expense of my religion."

"The most important thing in my life is my religion. I can't compromise on my religion. I am holding on to my faith strongly," he said, adding that his wife supported his decision.

Although the case of the girls has been front-page news here, most of the Muslim minority in largely ethnic Chinese Singapore are supportive of the government.

The third major ethnic group in Singapore are the Indians, some of whom are also Muslims.

Nasser said he would ask his daughter to remove the headgear if the government gave written assurance that she would be allowed to resume wearing the scarf when she reached puberty or secondary school. Otherwise he would have to enrol her in a Muslim religious school, he said, adding though that these schools were already full and their quality was not as good as government schools.

The government's headscarf policy has elicited criticism from officials and groups in neighbouring Malaysia, including the deputy education minister Datuk Abdul Aziz.

The latest salvo Monday came from opposition politician Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wife of jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. "Just as the attire of Sikhs, nuns and monks do not contribute to social disharmony, we believe the choice of wearing a certain attire by Muslims would not lead to social disintegration," said Wan Azizah.

"In fact, tolerating and facilitating the expression of religion as understood by adherents of a particular faith could only lead to a society imbued with tolerance and moral virtues," she said.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the weekend urged Singaporeans to reject foreign interference, saying "race and religious relations in Singapore are matters for Singaporeans to decide, not foreigners."

The fathers of two Muslim primary students said their daughters would wear Islamic headscarves to Singapore schools on Monday despite Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's warning of suspensions.-dpa

February 05 , 2002 21:04PM

Nik Aziz Writes In To Kuan Yew Over Headscarf Issue

KOTA BAHARU, Feb 5 (Bernama) -- PAS' Ulama Council Head Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat today sent a letter to Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, expressing sadness over the republic's Education Ministry's suspension of two Muslim pupils from school for refusing to take off their headscarf.

"I feel sad and disappointed as such action can give rise to many negative repercussions in the two countries.

"The Singapore government will be regarded as muzzling the religious freedom and this will lead to many negative perceptions, particularly from Muslims in Malaysia and Singapore.

"You're well aware of the negative perceptions," he said in his seven-paragraph letter to Lee. A copy of the letter was faxed to Bernama.

Nik Aziz, who is also Kelantan Menteri Besar, said he followed developments on the headscarf issue through the mass media.

-- BERNAMA A19617-2002Feb4?language=printer

Singapore School Girl Suspended

By Alexa Olesen
Associated Press Writer
Monday, February 4, 2002; 7:04 AM

SINGAPORE -- A young Muslim girl was suspended from school Monday for wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf to class, in a confrontation that has tested race relations in Singapore following the recent arrests here of more than a dozen suspected al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

Seven-year-old Nurul Nasihah began wearing the headscarf to class in early January, but her school, like all public schools in this island nation, bans students from wearing religious objects.

White Sands Primary School announced last week that if the girl didn't comply with the ban by Monday, she would be suspended.

On Monday she spent 30 minutes inside the school and then left accompanied by her mother and father. Her father, Mohamad Nasser, told reporters that she had been suspended.

Nurul is one of four Muslim girls whose families asked their school principals in early January for permission to wear the headscarves. Each was denied permission.

The government has repeatedly said that allowing the scarves would damage racial unity by underscoring differences among students. Almost 80 percent of Singapore's population is ethnic Chinese. Muslims account for about 15 percent and Indians make up most of the rest.

"You cannot give way" on the headscarf ban, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told a group of young Muslims on Saturday. "If the schools give way, then I think let us not have any rules."

However, the prime minister added that it wasn't a "never, never" position, and that eventually "our own attitudes may change."

Politicians in neighboring Malaysia, which is mostly Muslim, and ethnic Malays in Singapore have voiced their anger over the headscarf ban.

While religious garb is banned in schools, headscarves are freely worn by many Muslim women in Singapore.

Race relations in Singapore have come to the forefront since the arrests of 13 suspected al-Qaida-linked terrorists in December.

The men are accused of plotting to blow up foreign embassies, U.S. Navy ships, a shuttle bus ferrying U.S. soldiers and other Western interests in Singapore.

On Saturday, Goh said some Singaporeans had unjustifiably become suspicious of Islam since the December arrests. Schools are a place where children can mix without regard to race or religion, he said.

Racial and religious riots wracked Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. Avoiding racial and religious tension has been a cornerstone of government policy ever since.