06 February 2008

Keeping schools safe from religion

A headmaster tried to make his canteen all-halal, violating a fundamental principle of a secular state. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

In Singapore, as long as there is one muslim in the group going out for lunch, the majority would accomodate to going halal. But, this accommodation seem to have gone too far here in the caes pointed out by YB.

I wonder why can't they stick to Muslim and non-muslim utsensils as seen in many foodcourts.

kai khiun

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Kai Khiun,

On a private level, I think it is good that people do make accommodation. I would encourage that.

I can say with a bit of pride that last year when I was at a conference in Manila, I found myself one day, quite incidentally, hanging around 2 Muslim guys from Indonesia. It was Ramadan, and they were fasting, so I fasted along with them and broke fast with them at the appropriate time.

They made an accommodation too. They didn't mind eating at non-halal places; they just avoided pork.

But when it comes to the State and its coercive powers, I become very sensitive to the propriety of its actions. I think you will agree that this private/public distinction is important and we should be alert to it.

It is fundamental to the non-corruptibility of a state that public servants are always reminded they must act purely in the public interest per constitutional rules, and never admix private agenda with their actions.

Larry said...

The Establishment Clause in the US constitution is constantly under attack. Millions of dollars are spent enforcing it. Those that defend it are often persecuted and called immoral and god-less.

Anonymous said...

I was very disturbed that the school's security guard was given the authority to check on personal items carried in the kids' schoolbags. Its a violation of personal privacy and the poor children may have been traumatized by this "guilty till proven innocent" bag search. Oh, come on, these kids are between the ages of 7 and 12 years old only & are humiliated on a daily basis for gods knows how long to this ordeal. Smacks of anti-terrorism search techniques at airports!

Another disturbing point here is why did the teachers at the school stay silent about this search your school bag policy? Surely, they must have found this policy over the top. I am certain some of these teachers are parents too and would emphatize with their students if they had their own kids treated the same way! Were the teachers at Boon Lay afraid of reprisals from the school principal if they had voiced objections becos the principal has the final say in teachers' annual performance appraisal??

Should there not be a whistle blower anonymous hotline at MOE to cater for such incidents when teachers are way too afraid of speaking up against the principal's draconian policies?

Charles said...

On this note about food in school canteens, I wonder if schools provide food for vegetarian or vegan kids.

It always seems to me that while the ministry of education is advocating healthy diets, they never seem to promote vegetarianism or veganism as a form of alternative. Instead what we see are unhealthy choices like fried chicken wings and french fries.

While I disagree that the school canteen should be entirely used for only halal food, I do however feel that wearing headscarves is not a threat to the studying environment.

If wearing a headscarve is seen as imposing a religious viewpoint on others, then we might as well ban turbans, cruxifixes, crosses, amulets and talisman that children wear or bring to school.

Solo Bear said...

Charles said…
>>While I disagree that the school canteen should be entirely used for only halal food, I do however feel that wearing headscarves is not a threat to the studying environment.

If wearing a headscarve is seen as imposing a religious viewpoint on others, then we might as well ban turbans, cruxifixes, crosses, amulets and talisman that children wear or bring to school.

It is good that the MOE and even MUIS stepped in to correct the situation. I also agree with you that in order to have harmony and integretation, the headscarf should not be banned in totality. I do recall that some girls’ school did allow the headscarf before then PM Goh CT put a total stop.

In any case, I never believed that Singapore is discrimination free. I made that point over here - If I told you Singapore has racist policies, would you believe me?

Solo Bear said...

Hello Yawning Bread Sampler,

I note your point about “accommodating others”. This may be out of point, but I have always wanted to ask you this, although I never really did because I was too busy.

Why is there a need to have S377A repealed? After all, no one is going on a witch hunt, persecuting two men from having sexual relations. Can’t two homosexuals just have their relationship in private? What’s the need to repeal S377A?

I put up a post on that and it appears that some pro-gays are using the same religious argument when I didn’t even bring religion in. Here is that post I made - Section 377A and Gay Relations – The Social Perspective

PS - I want to hear it from a "real" self-proclaimed homosexual, rather than from faceless nicks who I can't relate to

Chin Chye Lah said...

I would like to take the politics out of the education system too. I think that everybody know that there is a group of kindergartens that has the name of a political party right in front of their kindergarten name.

To me, this is sublime messaging for the very young.

Robert L said...

I have two main concerns over this matter. The first is the response of MOE - too little, too late. The second is the suitability of the school principal.

According to the school principal, the school had been all-halal ever since 2002. That means from 2002 till 2008, 6 years of batches of school children had been unable to buy non-halal food in the school. That puts "too late" into a whole new strata.

What happened to the widely-believed rumour that every school has to have a secret govt spy? Surely that spy had not been doing his/her job for 6 years!

Even till today, the MOE has not been proactively open to disclose how many other schools have adopted this halal policy. Which blogger would dare to assume that, other than the Millennia Institute, no other school is doing that? Huh?

Yeah, too little, too late, MOE.

Now, regarding the school principal, look at what he said.

"[... headmaster Imran too believed that his action was consistent with the aim of providing a "common space". He wanted to ensure that all pupils could buy food from all stalls in the canteen. What is wrong with that?]"

There is such an appalling flaw in his thinking that I should not dwell too long on it. 20% of the schoolchildren take only halal food, so he makes the canteen completely halal for those 20% schoolchildren to patronise all the stalls in the canteen. Meanwhile the rest of 80% are forced to take the same limited range of food. And he asked what is wrong???

Look at another thing he said.

"[The Straits Times reported that the headmaster has also sent out a further letter "apologising for the error and saying the children were free to bring and eat non-halal food."]"

Can you imagine if in another school, the canteen does not provide halal food at all, and the principal sends out a circular telling parents that children were free to bring and eat halal food? Surely that letter would include an apology and an assurance that better arrangements will be made with the utmost urgency.

Let me show you what my letter would look like, if I were the principal, and then you can easily compare how far short of standard that principal is. My version:

"[The Straits Times reported that the headmaster has also sent out a further letter "apologising for the error and again apologising that the children were free to bring and eat non-halal food, during the interim while he would rectify his error."]"

Do you see now there are two things he needed to apologise for? First, an apology for the error that he had forbidden non-halal food, Second, another apology for the inconvenience that students now has to bring their own food to school,
a procedure which Muslims would certainly object to if halal food is not available in their school.

So now, do you see how unsuitable it is for this person to hold the post of principal? It is not a simple, spur-of-the-moment mistake which we all could make when responding to questions. The mistake was made and perpetuated for the years when he took over the school till now. Even till today, we see no sign that he recognises the full extent of his mistake. No, indeed it is not a spur-of-the-moment mistake; when a mistake is perpetuated for days and weeks and months and years, it is a true testimony on how his mind works, or fails to work.

Anonymous said...

Oh and don't all schools celebrate or observe Racial Harmony Day?

What's Racial Harmony when you've a principal who "forces" his own religion through the observance of consuming halal food into others who hold other faiths?

foryourinfo said...

I have stopped eating halal-foods altogether. Non-Muslims in S'pore have been too tolerant with the Muslims.

Singapore has 80%+ non-Muslims. We must encourage the Muslims to a better, free and non-imprisoned life-style.

Islam has imprisoned Muslims to many "dos and don't". Our secular society should set them free from these irrelevant practices.

Mohd Hisham said...


My first reaction was, "WAAHH!".

I don't think I want to type anything else, when I am feeling really pissed off with your remark.

Just be mindful that you are in Singapore.

You are just lucky to be anonymous, otherwise I would have looked you up and give you a good walloping.

And if this constitute a physical threat, then your statements are considered as seditious(which is an unpopular word since I was the one who accompanied my friend to court for his actions!)

Tolerance? I don't think you know the meaning of that!

BEAST FCD said...

If the stupid morons want to ban children from eating pork, I suggest kids who want to eat pork slap a "halal" stick pork filled lunch boxes on it to deceive the authorities.

Check this out:


Beast FCD