New Zealand’s police force has introduced a hijab option in its official uniform in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to join the service.

Constable Zeena Ali will become the force’s first member to wear the specially designed hijab as part of her uniform. Ali, who gained her current rank in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, said the introduction of the hijab means Muslim women “who may not have previously considered policing can do so now.”

“I was training to enter the police service when the Christchurch terror attack happened. If I have been a fully-fledged constable then, I would have gone down to support the victims and their families,” she said. Ali also said that she had taken part in the design process for the hijab, and was grateful to the Royal New Zealand Police College staff for organizing halal meals and making a prayer room available during her training. “I am thrilled the police went out of their way to make sure the hijab I have meets health and safety requirements as well as my own personal needs.” The UK’s London Metropolitan Police approved a uniform hijab in 2001, with Police Scotland following 15 years later.

Victorian policewoman Maha Sukkar was the first officer in Australia to wear a hijab as part of her uniform in 2004.

NEW ZEALAND POLICE STATEMENT

The specially designed uniform aims to create an “inclusive” service reflecting the country’s “diverse community”, a spokesperson told news channels. Now recruits in the New Zealand police come from highly diverse backgrounds, with 50 percent 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.

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