I am a teacher. I am an employee of the Ministry of Education. I am a a civil servant. I am a Muslim. I don the tudung and I am proud to be all of the above mentioned. As a teacher, an educator, everyday I teach my pupils life lessons. Trying my best to instill values in them, so that they will grow up to become a respectable, responsible and kind member of the society. I teach all of them equally no matter their race, religion and nationality. I resognate our government’s belief of living in harmony as a cohesive society despite our differences. I have never been treated indifferently because of the piece of cloth I choose to wear over my head. I believe I am not stereotyped by my outfit, religion or skin colour. Rather, by my mannerisms in the way I interact with society.
Today, I am appalled, angered, disgusted, devastated. I could go on, but I would rather not. In this month of Ramadan, my younger sister a part-time employee from PUMA was treated in a prejudiced, biased manner just because of the cloth she wears over her head.
She was sent to ISETAN located at Wisma Atria to help mend the PUMA section in the ISETAN outlet due to a lack of manpower. An hour later two ISETAN managers approached another staff at PUMA and conversed in Mandarin while throwing dirty looks at my sister and made hand signals indicating the headscarf she was wearing. She was then approached by the PUMA staff and was informed that she had to leave the premises as she was wearing a headscarf and should not be working there. Fine, I CAN tolerate that.
Next, they called a PUMA manager in a nearby outlet saying that manpower or not my sister had to leave, not once acknowledging my sister’s presence or even having the decency to speak to her directly. As though she was a fly on the wall and the only thing they saw was her head scarf. Fine, I WILL tolerate that. Headscarf or no headscarf, some people are just incapable of respecting others, much less understanding anything seemingly different from what they are accustomed to in their small, small world.
As my sister was making her way out of the store. She was stopped and told to leave through the service exit and proceed to the security guard post to have her bag checked. Now that is the last straw.
People are afraid of anything that is different. They are uncertain and may not be accepting. However appalled I am that such a stigma still exists in Singapore today, I can still accept the fact that some people are still living with a mindset of a backwards society. Everyone’s different right?
But to make an assumption that a person wearing a tudung does not have morals and will most likely shoplift is an atrocity. Ironic even, do you know the amount of faith one must have to don the tudung? The physical challenges like the weather is one of many things to overcome before making a commitment to wear the tudung forever. Not to mention the emotional, mental and social challenges brought upon by people like the 2 managers from ISETAN.
My sister left the store crying and heading straight home after being treated so unjustly and in such an inhumane manner. How ironic, and here I thought being in the customer service line would have taught you to be sincere, kind and not biased towards a person’s physical appearence.
In this fasting month, let me educate you a little about people who wear tudung. We are normal people, under this scary, scary tudung is a normal person, 2 eyes, 1 nose and a personality that you may even grow to like if you try to get to know us.
You did not have the courtesy to address my sister directly. Well here’s a direct message to you managers of ISETAN:
Firsly, I hope you don’t treat your tudung-wearing customers the way you treat your tudung-wearing staff. You know checking all of their bags everytime they leave the store. Secondly, good customer service comes from the heart and is sincere, going the extra mile and treating customers with respect and kindness without judging their physical appearance. You reflected none of that, I suggest you reconsider your career before any customer catches a whiff of you real personality.
Finally, you owe my sister an apology. It would be good, if you can throw in some dignity and self-worth in your apology because God knows she lost a basketful of those when she walked out the service exit of your store Isetan Singapore.
Authored by Zafirah Edwards
Here’s an update.
Several people have contacted the Ministry of Manpower to enquire about this case.
One of them is PAP MP Zainal bin Sapari who demanded an investigation into the matter. Steady lah!
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