Hardware, Heartware and Headwear

The Facebook group “Love My Country Love My Hijab” is a discussion we’ve avoided for too long. It’s time we brought it out into the open and be bold but careful in declaring what our principles are as a nation.

It seems to me that we parade terms like “multiculturalism” and “racial harmony” while actually meaning “tolerating in spite of our differences”. It is time we recognised our differences and embrace them. Our ethnicity, beliefs and values want to be recognised because of what they are. It doesn’t matter if, as some people have put it, the hijab/tudung issue is a “recent phenomenon of Islamisation”.

It’s helpful to know that Sikhism was once considered a new religion, having been established in 1699. It is in the Sikh Reht Maryada that a Sikh is forbidden to cut his/her hair, and must wear hair unshorn. The conspicuous religious wearing of a turban has long been allowed in workplaces including that of military and civil services, as well as in exception to rules which govern the wearing of safety headgear in motoring.

At the very least, we should begin discussion about the tudung or hijab and the freedom to practice our beliefs.

There’s that R-word again

No, the other R-word. I don’t really care about Pastor Rony Tan and his idiocy – he’s of the same cloth, as far as I’m concerned, as the evangelical pastor in the U.S. who once made his point against migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds by famously declaring that “if English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!”

I’m referring to our nation’s obsession with race. I was rummaging through our personal documents last night because I was trying to get them organised for Kai’s first passport application.

On his birth certificate I saw something in Naomi’s details that made me chuckle and recall the little argument I had with the lady registering our details for Kai’s birth certificate.

On the column for Naomi’s “race” is printed “Japanese”. Which is alright I guess if you consider Japanese a “race”. The box next to that, “Dialect Group”, I had left blank when we filled out the form, and the lady clerk had pounced on the blank box with her pen and said, “you must fill in dialect group. What dialect group is your wife?”

She wouldn’t take “none” for an answer, and insisted that there had to be a dialect group for Naomi, whether she was Japanese or not. After around the 27th time I had said that I had no idea, the officious but helpful clerk looked at me like I was stupid and said, “ok, what language does she speak apart from Japanese? Japanese is her first language right? What else does she speak? Come on, I’m sure you know.”

And so, Kai’s birth certificate shows that his mother belongs to the “English Dialect Group” of the Japanese Race.

Extending race

The Sideways Joker
I wanted to be 'The Joker', but I was lying on my side when they painted my face

More on the country’s obsession with “race”, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow writes:

as far as this racial labelling in Singapore officialdom is concerned, we should all just tick the ‘Others’ box — and carry on

From her post, I went on to read Alex Au’s (Yawning Bread) study on the matter, and as I suspected:

What was interesting when I sifted through the bureaucratese was how this change, which was spun to suggest an increase in flexibility, was actually a decrease. Where parents previously could leave the race of the baby blank, they now cannot.

Aiyah, “Others” lah.

The Singapore formula for ethnic harmony

National Parks Singapore - Weblinks
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

It is diabolically simple – just don’t talk about it. When you don’t raise race issues, they won’t surface, and everyone is none the wiser, and Confucius did say something to the effect of doing away with knowledge and grief consequentially not being known.

It makes me really upset to hear about the Police disallowing a Speakers’ Corner application to speak about the CAAS not having Tamil language signboards at Changi Airport (they have English, Chinese, Malay and Japanese ones).

I thought there was some liberalisation or something, and that the National Parks were in charge now, but apparently, it now seems if the Parks receive applications with keywords like “race”, “language” and “religion”, they refer them to the police to be disallowed.

When pressed, the CAAS, who, bless their hearts, are doing a fine job of running airports, but who need PR people desperately, apparently responded like this:

The CAAS replied last week that directional signboards were previously only in English. From April 2005, they were also in Chinese, Malay and Japanese, to cater to the large number of visitors speaking those languages.

As English was India’s second language, it was advised by the Singapore Tourism Board that English signs were sufficient.

Bravo, Singapore Tourism Board too. So English comes second, between Hindi and Tamil, issit?

I hear they’re changing the lines of the National Pledge:

...pledge ourselves as one united people who will not talk about race, language or religion… to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.



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