All the Singapore Men

Polling day, Singapore, September 11, 2015. 17.23 GMT.

In solidarity with Singaporean Muslim policewomen and nurses who are not allowed to wear the hijab when they are on duty, men of all ethnicities and faiths have been showing up at polling stations all over Singapore today wearing the hijab.

All polling stations across the island have reported similar sightings of the male electorate turning up to cast their votes wearing the hijab. Never before has such a thing been seen in the modern history of elections throughout the world; not even in France, the nation of revolution, during its veil crisis.

At first, officials at polling stations were taken aback and amused. But when they saw all the men of all ethnicities attired that way, they knew it could not just be some prank organised by the LGBT community of Singapore. Voters from all sides of the political spectrum were involved.

The men were seen approaching the polling stations wearing the tudung, the Malay word for hijab. Some removed their tudungs before they went into the voting booth. Then, after dropping their ballots into the ballot box, they put their hijabs on again and waved goodbye to everyone in the room as they made their exit.

“We do not know what to do,” an official who declined to be named said. “Technically, they are not breaking the law. There is no dress code for voting in Singapore. You can wear anything you want. You only cannot vote naked in Singapore,” he added.

“We also cannot complain on the grounds that this act is offensive to Muslims,” another official said. “There is nothing in Islam that says that men cannot wear the hijab,” she explained. “So this gesture of theirs has to be read beyond the framework of religion.”

With less than three hours to go before polling stations close, hijabed men continue to flow into the voting centres as officials and female members of the public try to supress their giggles.

Nobody knows who engineered this idea that has taken the world by surprise. But rumour has it that it comes from Ariana Hashim, the girl who, several years ago, turned life upside down in Singapore when she made it snow by singing the national anthem.

Now in her last year of school, Ariana had said in a recent interview that she does not want to go to a top university or get a job where she makes lots of money.

“I just want to continue to train my voice and keep it in top shape,” she said. “You never know when it might come in handy again.”

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Masturah Alatas is the author of The life in the Writing (Marshall Cavendish, 2010) and The girl who made it snow in Singapore (Ethos Books, 2008). She is currently working on a novel about polygamy. Masturah teaches English at the University of Macerata in Italy, and can be contacted at: alatas@unimc.it    

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