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New Zealand officer becomes first in force to wear hijab in uniform

The New Zealand Police force has incorporated a hijab into its official uniform, with first officer to wear it saying it will open the door to female Muslims wishing to join.
Published - 19/11/2020 By - Chloe Livadeas

Constable Zeena Ali had the opportunity to trial several versions of the hijab before she began her police training, with the item now an official elective item of uniform.

The force worked alongside apparel design researchers Deb Cumming and Nina Weaver, from Massey University School of Design Wellington, to create the hijab, with Constable Ali taking part in the process.

Constable Ali, who is originally from Fiji but has lived in New Zealand since she was a child, said: “Police and the Massey design team have been really easy to work with to make adjustments to the hijab.

“It feels great to be able to go out and show the New Zealand Police uniform hijab because I was able to take part in the design process.

“Having a police-branded hijab means women who may not have previously considered policing can do so now. It’s great how the police incorporated my religion and culture.”

Initial work to develop a uniform hijab started in 2018, with the hijab formally approved as an elective item of uniform on November 4 this year.

The force added that Sikh men have been able to wear a New Zealand Police turban since 2008.

New Zealand policing has followed the UK's lead where there has been a tradition of adapting uniform to take account of different cultures and religious beliefs for the past 20 years.  

In the Metropolitan Police, the hijab was introduced for female Muslim officers in 2001, followed by the turban for male Muslim officers in 2003.

Uniformed staff who are Sikh, have been able to wear a turban for more than 30 years.

In September a photo was widely circulated on social media of a female Muslim officer wearing a hijab at the frontline of the response to anti-lockdown protests in London. Police leaders, including Federation chair John Apter, quickly came to her defence after she received abuse from people online.

One called the picture a “political correctness stunt”, and another tweeted: “Hard to envisage in a time gone by that a police officer would de able to dictate her dress/uniform… Unreal and totally not needed or wanted…”

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