Two Muslim families yesterday defied a government ban on sending their daughters to state school wearing Islamic headscarves, risking their suspension from the public education system. The confrontation raises sensitive religious issues in multiracial Singapore. A third Muslim family, which has also been sending their daughter to school wearing a headscarf, or tudung, kept her away from school yesterday, officials said. A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said the authorities wanted the families to reconsider their defiance over the weekend, and repeated the threat of suspension if they did not conform. 'The parents of these pupils have been informed that the pupils will be suspended from school if they do not come in the prescribed uniform,' an official said. 'The principals of the two pupils who reported to school wearing headscarves have allowed them to attend classes for today.' The statement raises the prospect of the girls being barred from class from Monday. One of the parents, Mohamad Nasser, said his seven-year-old daughter, Nurul Nasihah, was confused when he took her to White Sands Primary School. 'She doesn't understand at all. She is a very innocent girl,' Mr Nasser said. The three girls are in their first year of school. Since the beginning of the school year last month they have attended classes wearing the tudung, prompting officials to counsel the families over the need to abandon the scarf. When talks failed, officials set yesterday as a deadline. A fourth Muslim family is being counselled over the same issue, but does not yet face suspension. Under long-standing rules, Muslim children may not wear headscarves in state schools. Officials say they do not permit religious 'symbols' as a way to encourage integration. Some Muslims say that, according to the tenets laid down in the Koran, women must wear a tudung to preserve their modesty. Mr Nasser said: 'There was one time that I asked her, 'Are you willing to take off the scarf because you cannot wear the scarf?'. She said, 'No'. It's part and parcel of her life.' About 15 per cent of Singapore's 3.2 million citizens are Muslim. Almost all are Malays. Mr Nasser said he was optimistic a compromise would be reached.