London - UK Police Adopt Uniform with Muslim Hijab
The force has become the latest to approve a design for a headscarf suitable for officers on patrol.
Senior officers believe the lack of the option has deterred applications from the considerable number of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab.
The police hijab is plain black and made of a flame-retardant material.
Officers will be able to wear a standard police hat on top of it.
A small number of forces nationwide have taken a similar step, including Thames Valley and the Metropolitan police.
Superintendent Geoff Feavyour, who leads the Leicestershire Constabulary recruitment team, compared the development to the incorporation of the turban several years ago, which removed a barrier to the recruitment of male Sikhs.
The police’s annual report for 2007/08 showed women made up about 23 per cent of the force’s officers.
The number of officers from black and Asian communities stood at about six per cent â€“ short of the 15 per cent target.
Mr Feavyour said: “Clearly, we want people from all walks of life to join the force and the fact we have the hijab available now shows our commitment to that. It’s an extension to our uniform which will, hopefully, show people they are welcome.
“It is very important to us that the force reflects the community it serves.”
The move has also been welcomed by officers, including the Leicestershire branch of the National Association of Muslim Police.
Sgt Yakub Ismail, chairman of the branch, said: “Leicestershire Constabulary is always understanding and supportive of the religious needs of its staff.
“It has always encouraged applicants from all communities and religious denominations.
“I firmly believe neighbourhood policing can only be truly achieved by having officers from within those neighbourhoods being part of the police family.”
Sughra Ahmed, a research fellow at the Islamic Foundation, in Markfield, said: “Not every Muslim woman who wants to join the police would want to wear the hijab, but that choice is there now and that is a very important step.
“There may also be women who are already with the force who do not wear the scarf but choose to later. Again, this will be positive for them.”
Sabrina Khan, a 19-year-old student from Evington, Leicester, said: “I don’t wear the veil, but a lot of my family and friends do.
“I have seen Sikh officers wearing turbans and if I saw a female officer wearing the hijab, I would feel that the police respected the Muslim faith.”
Osob Osman, an 18-year-old student from North Evington, said: “The hijab has had a lot of bad press during the past couple of years.
“This will give women more career opportunities and, hopefully, change people’s attitudes to Muslim people.”
Police spoke to community groups, including the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, when they were developing the garment.
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the federation, said: “It’s a wonderful move and it will help the police encompass a wider range of people in its recruitment.”
Resham Singh Sandhu, chairman of the Sikh Welfare and Cultural Society and a trustee of Leicester Council of Faiths, said: “This is a positive step forward for religious people who want to serve the community as police officers.”
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