President Halimah Yacob weighed in on the hijab issue today, saying that the Tangs department store will allow employees to wear headscarves after it was widely criticized for telling the employee of a visiting vendor to remove hers.
Halimah’s response came a day after Today reported that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, or TAFEP, was investigating the Orchard Road department store over the July 29 incident that later made its way online in a video posted by a third-party vendor who was selling leather goods at a pop-up booth.
“I visited the [Association of Muslim Professionals] this morning and the reporters asked me about the recent case of a sales promoter who was asked by Tangs to remove her hijab in order to work on the company’s premises. Tangs had since said that they would remove such restrictions and will allow the hijab to be worn at work.” Halimah wrote online today.
Halimah, the city-state’s second Muslim president since independence, said the issue was a fundamental matter of discrimination.
“Discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in our society and, most certainly, not at the workplace,” she added. “People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else.”
She also noted that concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not clear whether today’s development would conclude the investigation by the fair labor board.
I visited the AMP this morning and the reporters asked me about the recent case of a sales promoter who was asked by Tangs to remove her hijab in order to work on the company’s premises. Tangs had since said that they would remove such restrictions and will allow the hijab to be worn at work.
Discrimination of any form and against anyone has no place at all in our society and, most certainly, not at the workplace. People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ab…ility to do a job and nothing else. Discrimination at the workplace is particularly disturbing because it deprives the person affected from earning a living. During this COVID-19 period when concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater, incidents of discrimination exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened.
Diversity is our strength and our society has already embraced it. I hope that employers too will fully embrace diversity at the workplace and do their part to uphold the values of a fair and open society.
Tafep said Tuesday that it was looking into claims by sales promoter Nurin Jazlina Mahbob, 20, that two managers approached her not long after her shift started and told her to remove her hijab. The exchange apparently stirred a commotion, and Nurin was allowed to leave her headdress on.
The vendor, known on Instagram as @Anastasiabyraine, was reportedly told to pack up her things and close her booth, even though Tangs had agreed to allow it to run until Aug. 13.
The latest incident has reignited a debate on Singapore’s longstanding hijab angst. While Muslim women are largely allowed to don the headdress for work, it is commonly not allowed in uniformed professions such as nursing and the police force.
Several people have taken their grievances to the official Tangs Facebook page to criticize them with the hashtag “#BoycottTangs.” In 2016, a similar incident happened when a woman named Sharifah Begum was told she could not wear a hijab when she applied for a job as an administrative assistant at a private preschool.
“Religious attire should generally be allowed at workplaces, unless employers have uniform, or dress code requirements which are suited to the nature of their work, or for operational and safety reasons,” Senior of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad wrote online yesterday.
“It is important for employers to communicate their uniform policy or dress code clearly and sensitively to their employees and jobseekers and their stakeholders,” he added.
It’s not the first time Halimah has weighed in to settle a cultural flash point. On June 15, she tipped the scales on a debate over misogyny by pressuring a team of podcast ho…