New Zealand Police have created an operational hijab after 16 months research.
A new hijab designed in New Zealand especially for operational Muslim police officers is being trialled by Leicestershire Police.
The operational hijab was created for the New Zealand Police by designers at Massey University College in the country’s capital, Wellington.
It came after 16 months of research and development looking at fabric, patterns and fit and was rolled out in the southern hemisphere country’s national force in November last year.
Now officers in Leicestershire are trialling the hijab after the new design was launched and was shared in the media locally in New Zealand and internationally.
Student Officer Khadeejah Mansur
Designers at the college have sent a sample to the force and it is currently being tested by a Leicestershire Police student officer.
The hijab is designed to sit comfortably with police issued headwear such as caps and radio ear pieces plus has been designed with safety in mind using magnetic fastenings that can release easily if grabbed.
Detective Constable Yassin Desai is joint chair of Leicestershire Police’s Association of Muslim Police (AMP) and also sits on the national AMP (NAMP) as lead for uniform and equipment.
He said: “We have been looking for the right design and the right product for a number of years. We saw the New Zealand hijab and liked the look of it so got in contact, built a really good relationship and have been trialling it for a number of weeks.
“We have had several failed attempts to get the right product but we are very hopeful with what we have seen so far. If everything goes well and the necessary tests and approvals are met then we could be rolling this out in Leicestershire. I have also been talking to other forces in England and Wales and the Home Office about it being a national solution for emergency services and frontline staff.
“It’s really important for our Muslim officers who wear the hijab. Operationally, a standard hijab is needed. A lot of research and development has gone into this product with academic backing. It looks professional, uses very similar material to our current police uniform and has relevant design and safety features.
“More importantly it will help attract other Muslim females to become police officers. It shows that Leicestershire Police is inclusive and accessible and recognises the need for religious headwear. It will also help to provide role models to the community to show them they too can follow a career in policing.”
Student Officer Khadeejah Mansur joined the force in October and is currently undergoing her initial training period and is trialling the product.
She said: “Wearing the hijab had made me very comfortable and complements my uniform very well, it is comfortable and far from restricting. I am able to conduct my training just as well as everyone else and still be covered.
“I believe it is important to have it as part of our uniform to make other Muslim females aware that Leicestershire Police caters to all individuals needs especially with our uniform. Once fellow Muslim females see myself as a frontline hijab wearing officer I hope it will inspire them to look at a career in policing as there are no restrictions or setbacks.”
New Zealand Police worked with Massey University to develop the hijab to produce a product that met its operational needs.
Leonie Smiley of New Zealand Police said: “We want to enable Muslim women to have the same career opportunities in policing as everyone else, so we have created a uniform hijab that met our operational requirements. By partnering with the Massey University School of Design tutors, the Muslim women in our communities and the female trainers at the New Zealand Royal Police College, we were able to test and trial under a wide range of conditions to develop a hijab that is appropriate, easy to wear and meets the needs of an operational police officer. We now have the first hijab wearing officer operationally deployed.”
Deb Cumming, Senior Lecturer within the School of Design at Massey University, developed the hijab with colleague Nina Weaver.
She said: “It was a great design project to work on with the New Zealand Police team. We analysed the performance needs for the operational hijab and spent much time in the development phase with multiple pattern and construction samples testing aspects of fit and comfort.
“The hijab fits the head and neck shoulder area for freedom of movement and rigorous performance with contoured panels and reinforced zones for durability, access for communication device and quick release fastening system for safety reasons. It is made from a technical sports fabric which is light to wear, antibacterial, moisture wicking and robust. We carried out extensive wear trials to ensure the hijab was fit for purpose.
“We really appreciated the considered approach to creating the hijab for women who choose to wear the hijab in terms of inclusion and identity. The team consulted widely with Muslim women groups throughout the country to consider both shared and diverse cultural needs. We are really pleased with the final product and the appreciation shown on a domestic and international level.”