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

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.

What do you think?

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