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First Veiled Muslim Head Of State

Al-Itihad, UAE, October 1

Perhaps the most important event that took place in recent weeks, and was sadly overlooked by most political commentators, was the election of a veiled Muslim woman, Halimah Yacob, as Singapore’s new president. Yacob, who was born to a father of Indian origin and a mother of Malaysian origin, is a seasoned politician who rose through the ranks and served in various political roles in Singapore, including as the Speaker of Parliament. For those observers of Singapore’s political system this comes as no surprise. Since its separation from the Malaysian Federation in 1965, Singapore has maintained a secular government made up of diverse cultural and ethnic identities, which has allowed the country to flourish without creating internal divisions. Still, Yacob’s appointment did not come without pushback, mostly from Chinese ethnics, who accused Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of disqualifying Chinese candidates during the presidential race. In her swearing-in speech, Yacob thus said she will be the president of all Singaporeans, while encouraging people to embrace multiculturalism. Indeed, her rise to the position of president is a breakthrough for both Muslims and women, two minority populations. Yacob is Singapore’s first ethnic Malay president in nearly fifty years. Her story should be a true inspiration to all Muslim women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, where ethnic, religious, and cultural dictates are often forced upon people. Any woman can take the job of a man; any girl can one day be president.  – Abdallah al-Madani