November 19 (Independent) – New Zealand’s national police service has included a hijab in their official uniform for the first time, in order to be more inclusive and encourage Muslim women to join the force.
Constable Zeena Ali, a new recruit who says she was inspired to join the force after the Christchurch mosque attacks, will become the first officer to wear the hijab. She was the first to request the addition and was invited to take part in the process of development, according to local media reports.
The specially design uniform aims to create an “inclusive” service reflecting the country’s “diverse community”, a spokesperson told BBC News.
New recruits in the New Zealand police come from highly diverse backgrounds, with 50 per cent women and almost half hailing from a non-European New Zealander ethnic identity, according to a recent report by the activist movement Global Citizen.
“We need people with a range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels. Diversity is essential so that we can effectively serve the needs of New Zealand’s communities now and in the future,” New Zealand police said in a statement.
The force said it began developing the special uniform in late 2018 in response to a request from staff who visited secondary schools.
Ms Ali praised the efforts of the New Zealand police in encouraging women from all backgrounds to join up. She told the New Zealand Herald: “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.”
During her training, the Royal New Zealand Police College organised halal meals and made a prayer room available.
“When I had to go swimming I was able to wear long sleeves – a full swim suit,” Ms Ali added.
Ms Ali, who was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand as a child, told the newspaper she decided to join the police after the Christchurch attack.
“I realised more Muslim women were needed in the police, to go and support people,” she said. “It feels great to be able to go out and show the New Zealand Police hijab as part of my uniform.”