OP-ED: Don't compromise public service for the needs and wants of religion

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

I am surprised to see that the Government is considering allowing nurses to wear the tudung at work as announced by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam last week.

One's religious belief is his or her personal freedom to practice, as is religious dressing. What religion one wants to believe in and what clothes one wants to wear are their own prerogative.

However, personal rights also comes with it certain boundaries that needs to be respected in certain circumstances and in this case, setting.

The exercise of an individual's private rights should not come at the expense of forgoing the requirements of public service.

That is the reality.

Any company or industry, be it a private or public, comes with it their own set of regulations and standards.

For the uniformed public service like healthcare, it is a requirement for frontline workers to be in - well, uniforms.

If one wants to practice their religious belief, it should be done in their private space. That freedom is guaranteed in Singapore. But when it comes to public service, certain compromises have to be made. If compromise is out of the question, then your desire to choose to work in public service have to be reconsidered.

We need to be firm. The exercise of a person's religious or cultural needs should not extend or infringe upon the boundaries of public service.

It is up to one's personal freedom and right to wear whatever he or she wants when not at work - as long as it does not violate public order.

At the workplace, however, the person should respect the governing laws and regulations of their worplace or industry.

For example, when entering a construction site, one is obligated to wear a safety helmet; when entering the biological laboratory, one should change into protective gear; and when entering a maritime place, one should wear a life jacket.

Summarily, work is work, and individualism is individualism, which means the boundary shall be maintained between what you practice in private and what is expected of you at work.


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This commentator thinks MCI ad should not have featured poor Malays

May 12, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
A Hari Raya advertisement by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was 'cancelled' by certain netizens online for depicting lower income Malays according to reality.

"Message for Syawal", a two-and-a-half-minute video published last month (Apr 30) captures moments in the life of a low-income Malay family living in a rental flat.

Storyline


Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

The video, which is peppered with Malay proverbs, shows the family moving out of their rental flat to a new home several years later where they celebrate Hari Raya.

The father of the family works as a mover while the mother is a housewife.

Their young son, Syawal, skips school to earn extra income for his family before a teacher flags his absence from school to his parents.

The mother in the video later decides to return to work to alleviate her family’s financial difficulties while the father gets a new job.


Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"



Why some netizens are outraged

The video sparked backlash online, with some viewers saying that it contained stereotypes about the Malay community.

The stereotypes:
  • The father works as a mover - commonly perceived to be a low-income job
  • The mother is jobless
  • The son plays truant
  • The family lives in a rental flat for low-income earners

Commentator implied that poor Malays shouldn't be portrayed in public to prevent stereotypes


Pictured: Screenshot from Homeground Asia video

A video commentary by The Homeground Asia went further by criticizing how the video propagates the narrative that Malays are poor and lazy, and that the ministry should have created a video that is more relatable to both the less fortunate and the more affluent Malays.

Adi Rahman, one of the interviewees in the video went further by making sweeping assumptions that the ministry lacked cultural intelligence and did not consult the community on the narrative.

Ironically, in talking about inclusivity, Adi implied that the realities of poor Malays should not be shown in public.

For example, his rationale suggested that the video contained characters (the mover, jobless mother and the son who skips school) that contribute to the problem of other races seeing the Malays in a stereotypical and reductive light.

In other words, show the good stuff but not the reality.

Adi even accused the ministry for not consulting the Malays in the vetting of the video narrative.

His accusations were without merit, however, when the Ministry said in a statement (Apr 30) that Malay-Muslim viewers - presumably a focus group - had seen the video prior to its release, and perceived the story to be heart-warming, although some expressed reservations.


Pictured: Adi Rahman - one of the commentators in Homeground Asia video



Stereotyping or masking reality?

The ministry said last month (Apr 30) the video was meant to show "a family’s journey of resilience in facing challenging circumstances and how mutual support and encouragement could nurture the process”.

Other netizens felt it was an overreaction and that low-income families shouldn't be dehumanized in a way that they are removed from the conversation. They felt that the video was a call-to-action for those from the underprivileged to strive for a better life through hard work and seeking help that's already available.

The only missed opportunity in the MCI video was perhaps the suggestion that Malays in low income families living in a rental flat could not celebrate Hari Raya unless they get a flat on their own.

But of course, like Homeground Asia, that is also a sweeping assumption.