Raeesah Khan wants a more progressive Islam in S'pore - and she wants the Govt to step inAug 10, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership
In Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 3), Worker’s Party Raeesah Khan spoke about gender equality challenges in Singapore, more specifically, the treatment of Muslim women in Islam.
She focused on the following areas: sexuality education, sexual violence, female genital cutting (FGC), polygamy and hijab. You can read her full speech here.
Raeesah's speech has spurred conversations on the issues raised, albeit in a context that does her a disservice to her credibility as a Parliamentarian.
She received flak from netizens for raising an allegation without substantiating it with facts, and caused an online rift between Muslim netizens who are divided on the opinion of FGC and polygamy in Singapore.
Raising Muslim issues in an open secular setting adds to the bad perception of Islam by non-Muslims
The subject of FGC raised by Raeesah carries with it the negative connotation that the Singaporean Malay Muslim community is mutilating female genitalia in the same way that is practised in African states - gore and all.
The non-Muslim laymen may understandably feel outrage upon learning of FGM but what was not elaborated by Raeesah is that female circumcision in Singapore is not carried out in the same extremities as those in Africa.
On the topic of polygamy, Raeesah's speech may make the non-Muslim laymen think that marrying multiple wives is rampant in Singapore's Muslim community.
Raeesah's point was given more context by PAP's Rahayu Mahzam who clarified in parliament that the percentage of polygamy marriages in Singapore has dropped from 0.4% in 2010 to 0.07%.
Parliament not the right platform to discuss Muslim issues
Singapore is unique in a sense that we have an appointed Minister appointed specifically to oversee policies and issues related to the Muslim community here.
Singapore's approach to dealing with sensitive Muslim issues like the wearing of the tudung, or headscarf is to discuss them behind closed doors as open discussion may lead to serious ramifications and have an impact on religious harmony.
By tabling topics like female circumcision and polygamy in a secular and open platform like the Parliament, Raeesah is suggesting that the State should make an even-handed approach to a policy decision from a secular lens and not one based on religious grounding.
If the Government does so, it sets a precedence for other religious groups to pursue their wants and needs in parliament.
An open-discussion on religion in parliament also involves all stakeholders to chip in, including, for example, non-Muslims who may not understand the underlying context of certain Islamic functions and customs to make an educated and objective opinion on the subject matter. This can lead to disharmony and disunity.
The ultimate loser in the end will be the religion itself.