The tudung issue is an old issue but it is an issue that is still with us. Some younger Singaporeans do not know what transpired and unfortunately some of them do not bother to find out. AlhamdulilLah Bro. Zulfikar has posted an outline of his experience. So I thought that I should cut and paste the posting here and add some bits in from the exchanges that ensued that I thought is important and place it here as Fb Notes. May it benefit the readers who have not read it yet.
A PAP supporter Jahiti Sarip (who denies being one probably for credibility issues) had been claiming that we should not confront the government over the hijab issue. Instead, he said we should work with the PAP.
He claimed that those who confront the government are political opportunists.
Further, he said that the hijab issue in 2002 was hijacked by a political activist who organised a petition.
I guess this is a good time as any to address it.
Jahiti, I organised the petition as leader of the Fateha group.
And you have made repeated comments that I hijacked the issue.
Let us be clear about a few matters. We did not hijack it. We were the ones who brought it up.
During the madrasah issue when the government tried to shut down the madrasah, Pergas organised the discussion of the compulsory education act through its mailing list: cyber ummah.
There were about 2,000 members at cyber ummah.
Pergas brought together about 10 of us who were among the most vocal as "facilitators". Our role was twofold:
Keep up the pressure on the government through robust discussions and defeat the government's argument.
Maidin Packer was the parliamentary secretary of MOE and attempted to debate us by supporting the government's closure of madrasah.
That led to him and me going on an extended months long debate. Maybe En Abdul Rahman and a few others from cyber ummah can remember this episode.
While that was going on, a few families approached me and asked for help with their children's schooling.
These children were from madrasah and went to Serangoon Junior college for 'A' Levels. They were forced to remove their hijab.
I called SRJC and spoke with the Vice Principal to ascertain if it was true.
She happily told me that yes they have a few students from madrasah who attend the JC and were told to remove the hijab.
I drafted a letter for the families to submit to the school requesting they be allowed to wear the hijab. A few days later, I was told the JC rejected the request.
But the families were resigned to their fate and left it there.
But because i had took on Maidin Packer and the Malay MPs and tried to help these SRJC girls, I kept being approached by cyber ummah and non cyber ummah members for help. It ranged from hijab to free Quran distribution.
One father, then contacted me and said his 14 year old daughter was expelled from school. She reached puberty during the December school holidays.
They approached the school to inform the Principal that the girl had reached puberty and requested a slight modification to the school uniform.
They wanted to lengthen the sleeves past the elbow, lengthen the skirt to slighy below her knees and wear long socks to cover her legs and a hijab with school colours.
The principal rejected the request and referred them to the Deputy Director of Schools, East Zone, Yahya Aljaru.
Yahya rejected their request too. They approached Abdullah Tarmugi (who was minister then) and several Malay MPs. They were rejected again.
One Malay MP said it was darurat and they can meet MUIS to confirm it.
According to the father Ust Murat from MUIS said it was NOT darurat.
But MUIS could not do anything. The girl was expelled and went to night school instead.
She was a bright girl and had to be taken out of school. Her father was upset and contacted me.
I contacted some of the facilitators and brought the issue to them. We decided to form a group to work on it.
We figured that with all the rejections the girls were facing, there maybe a need to seek legal redress. A group known as Muslimfund was set up to raise the issue and funds to launch the court case.
Muslimfund later changed name to Fateha. Or better known through our website Fateha.com
But we decided to work with the government first. We organised multiple meetings with Malay MPs.
Some of these meetings were private. Some were public.
Br Abd' Al-Halim took part in one of the public meetings as a panelist with Zainul Abidin Rasheed and Ust Kamal to discuss the issue.
From 1999-2001 we attempted to reach a resolution with the government quietly.
I met with Ust Zhulkeflee Bin Haji Ismail to seek his advice. Ust Zhul provided a lot of advice and support Alhamdulillah.
He told us to discuss with Perdaus. We meet with Perdaus exco.
Perdaus told us they preferred to work for the Muslimah to want to wear the hijab not for them to be able to. We told them we would like to work for the Muslimah to be able to wear it.
We met with various organisations too. In 2002 at the height of the issue, Muhammadiyah contacted me and pledged their full support. They said they were freer to move after Ahmad Khalis became MP.
A few weeks later they contacted me again and said they had to rescind their support because Ahmad Khalis was made patron and he could not allow the organisation to have anything to do with actions against government policies.
I also met some of our Ulama. Allahyarham Ustadz Abu Bakar Hashim told me to double up the effort.
He said the first hijab case he faced was in 1972 and it had been almost 30 years of trying to work with the government to no avail.
Allahyarham Ust Abdillah Aljufri kept saying to becareful because the government was waiting for us to make a mistake.
We then organised a petition. About 10 of us would go to different masjid during solat Jumaat and inform the Muslims as they leave about the issue. Alhamdulillah a lot of them that we approached signed it.
Some of the others downloaded the petition from the website, signed it, approached their families and friends and mailed it to us.
It generated a lot of public discussion then. Goh Chok Tong made multiple references to it.
Allahyarham Mansur Sukaimi (Uncle M) met me regularly. He told me that the Cabinet saw the issue was going to be another trigger point. And they decided to approve it.
According to En Mansur, Lee kuan Yew was away during that Cabinet discussion. When he heard of the decision, the first thing he said was "over my dead body".
So we know that the decision was not because of some claims of secularism or rational policies.
We kept up the discussion.
The Council on American Islam Relations (CAIR) publishes a booklet called "An Educator's guide to Islamic Religious Practices". It was a fantastic booklet that gave solutions to schools.
We contacted CAIR for permission to reproduce the booklet and published 1,000 or 2,000 copies and distributed it.
I cant remember the exact number we published but I remember it cost us about $600.
We approached a Malay MP (he requested at that time that I do not disclose our meeting publicly so I will honour that) and asked for his support to distribute it to schools.
He said he would contact MOE directors.
About 2 weeks later, I was told MOE refused to look at it because it did not come from MUIS and MUIS refused to help.
So we distribute it to schools ourselves.
All these were done without public knowledge.
On the second day of school in 2002, a Fateha exco, Sis Arisha called me while i was at work and said her uncle (Kassim) needed help.
His daughter had worn the hijab for years. She was 7 years old. she applied to madrasah but the madrasah had been forced to limit enrolment and she was rejected.
So he sent her to school (off Tampines Ave 7) with the hijab. The girl was pulled out of assembly and made to stand in front of the whole school.
She was 7 years old, on her first day of school and the principal made her stand in front of the assembly.
The girl was not allowed to attend school. Kassim was summoned to meet the principal the next day and they asked if I can accompany him.
So i went. The principal, Ms Anita Tan scolded Kassim. I kept quiet for the most part and just wanted to observe.
when she told him it was ILLEGAL for his daughter to wear the hijab in school, I told her "Sorry Ms Tan but it is not illegal. There are no laws prohibiting the tudung. It is merely a policy and it is unconstitutional".
She responded with "Ok if you want to talk law then we dont talk anymore. I refer to MOE".
After the meeting, Kassim and I discussed his options. He told me that he knows of two other families facing the same problem. His nephew Nasser and his friend Farouk.
I told him, from where I stand, he had 4 options.
1. Remove the hijab and go to school
2. Go to madrasah
3. We had an arrangement with International Islamic College in KL. the Chairman offered full scholarship for any girl expelled for wearing hijab.
4. Seek judicial review.
He told me that his daughter had been wearing hijab for years and wont remove it. They were rejected by madrasah. For a 7 year old to study in KL was too far. And he would like to go to court and resolve this.
I called Yaacob Ibrahim's office and met him a couple of days later. Told him there were 3 girls in this situation and we needed to solve it. He said his information was that there were 4 ( he was right).
Yaacob said his hands were tied and could not do anything. But told me that he would inform MUIS to get the girls into madrasah. They can create space for these 4 girls.
He asked me what I would do if there was no solution. I told him that we may have to seek judicial review. He reminded me that it would be costly and asked how i would get the money.
I said we will have to raise funds through the community.
I met Dr Albakry, MUIS Director a few days later at a conference. He told me he received a memo from Yaacob to place these girls in madrasah.
Dr Albakry then said that they could not take the girls. It was full.
So we realised the only option was to go to court.
Now for Jahiti, where did we "hijack" the issue? I was approached by most of the opposition parties to join them and refused it. We worked with the government for a couple of years.
I had a concern then. The families wanted to resolve the issue. But I had been called up for 3 weeks reservist.
After informing Yaacob that we have to seek judicial review, I received a call from BBC for an interview on the JI issue at their office. I criticised the government's alignment with Israel and US and said the Malay MPs joined a bandwagon of condemnation when an isssue is against the community.
I went to reservist one or two days later.
The media then interviewed Ministers who criticised me as an extremist. It was followed up by some Malay organisations.
Ameerali Abdeali who was MOM GM kept up the charge that we should be shut down (he apologised one month later).
Those who remember 2002 knows the attacks went almost daily and lasted for several months.
I responded by keeping the focus on the hijab issue. But different ministers would go on the media to criticise us.
I believe that it was to make sure we could not raise funds to launch the court case.
When i responded, I received a directive from MINDEF that as a reservist, I was a member of the Singapore
So the next few weeks I had to keep silent while the PAP attacked daily.
So again Jahiti, where is the hijack?
This is just a brief account off the top of my head.
If anyone wants to work with the government because you believe it is the way, go for it. I will pray for your success insha Allah.
And maybe the conditions now are different.
But lets not pretend that it is because the government is kind. There are anti Muslim politicians in government (as I am sure there are among the opposition too).
Asking did not work. They only moved when they saw the confrontation. Because they were afraid of losing Malay support.
But PAP supporters will promote their party over other interests. Some are willing to compromise Islam just so that their party can always get support.
For them, decide who you are. Are you more a Muslim? Or a party supporter.
Thank you Pak Zulfikar for your revelation to clarify and explain what are the circumstances that have happened in 2001/2 on the hijab issue for the students in public schools and I appreciate your efforts to esolve the issue since then until now.
Mohon maaf atas kesilapan yang telah dilakukan kerana bergantung sangat dengan lapuran media dalam dan luar negeri tanpa menyelidiki lebih mendalam dan sekarang faham akan kedudukan yang sebenar.
It is not my intention to create any difficulties or obstacles but to seek the best effective way towards achieving the desired results whereby there will be a change of policy on the wearing of hijab by our Malay/Muslim students in public schools and our Muslimah at their work places of work such as nurses.
Hence my positive attitude towards you with the continuous hope since knowing you in FB around 2010 hope of meeting you over teh tarik or Australian root beer to have better undertanding of each other and my humble standing request for you to come back to continue to be involved in Malay/Muslim affairs as well as to write a book on the current situation of Malay/Muslim here based on your wide experiences as a political scientist and Islamic activist.
Mohon maaf if I have misunderstood you with the wrong perception on your intention to the extent of unintentionally hurt your feelings or status and I appreciate your teguran or soalan to help me learn more and make the necessary changes. May Allah SWT bless you and your family and wish you every success in your studies for PhD. I hereby rest my case and still stand to be corrected. Salam.
Bro. Zulfikar's reply:
But truthfully it is not just about me.
I am concerned that these sort of accusations will be levelled against our other brothers and sisters who are trying to help the community.
These fitnah dont help the community. And the constant urging that we either submit to the government or be branded as political opportunists and hijacking issues do not serve the ummah.
When those who try to serve Allah are accused of political opportunism and hijacking you discourage Muslims acting in fisabilillah.
Even though you have made these claims repeatedly, followed by statements saying you did not know (this is not the first time), I am compelled to accept your apology.
I have to assume that you are sincere and deny my own understanding. Insha Allah I will try to do that.
May Allah grant us all the will and courage to do what is right.
Another article by Br Zulfikar Sharifff
One of the main problems affecting the Muslim community in Singapore is the issue of Islamic leadership.
During the madrasah and hijab issues between 1999-2002, one organisation was the de facto leader of the ummah. They provided guidance, they led the issues, they organised networks, they fought for the rights of Muslims.
They behaved like the Ulama that we know they were. There was leadership. Islamic guidance was clear.
That organisation was PERGAS.
For Muslim activists then, they were our reference. We deferred to them. We recognised their moral authority. For me, I had never felt at awe with politicians. But an alim that is passionate about Islam is a whole other category.
They ran a petition drive for madrasah that collected more than 30,000 signatures. They galvanised the community. They organised massive events.
They held a solat hajat that brought a thousand Muslims. The government backtracked on madrasah closure almost immediately after the solat.
Ust Abdillah Aljufri was the President of Pergas. Ustadz Fatris Bakaram was the VP. Ustadz Pasuni Maulan was Chairman of the Joint Committee for Madrasah. Ustadz Zhulkeflee Bin Haji Ismail was Pergas Manager. Ust Abdul Aziz Mohamad was on council. And a lot more were involved in both issues.
They taught us.
They defended us.
They fought for us. They led us.
They showed us what to do.
They were the embodiment of the ulama.
They led us from the front. There was no ambiguity.
We knew what was going on because we can see them doing it.
We knew where we stood. Because they stood with us.
And yet today, they no longer stand.
Today, Pergas is a pale shadow of its former self.
They have even rejected to take a public position. While the community is trying to figure out what to do, Pergas has decided not to lead.
I discuss the situation of the ummah and Pergas with a lot of asatizah and activists. And most if not all of them said, Pergas has given up its fight. They are not the organisation they once were.
They are afraid. Instead of speaking truthfully and clearly, they are now taking the Malay MP strategy and claim to work behind closed doors.
And the community is left without leadership. We have to figure things out on our own.
May Allah strengthen our hearts. May Allah strengthen the hearts of the ulama. And may they find the courage to lead us once again.