New Zealand Police will integrate a hijab into their official uniform for the very first time, having worked closely with a Muslim student at the Royal New Zealand Police College to design a garment that is at once functional and respectful of Islamic officers’ faith.
Thirty-year-old Zeena Ali, who applied to join NZ Police in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch terror attacks and graduated last week, will become the first officer in the force’s history to wear the police-issued hijab.
Ali trialled several materials and styles both before and during her training, providing feedback to NZ Police and the Massey Design School and offering recommendations for tweaks. By the time she completed her recruitment process, she had an official police-branded hijab to wear to her graduation.
"It feels great to be able to go out and show the New Zealand Police hijab as part of my uniform," she told the NZ Herald. "I think that seeing it, more Muslim women will want to join as well."
Ali, who was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand as a child, said she was proud to represent the Muslim community—and Muslim women in particular—in the country’s federal police force. It was in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch terror attacks, she noted, that she herself decided to enlist.
“That's when I realised more Muslim women were needed in the police, to go and support people with things like this,” she said. "If I had joined the police earlier I would have been down there to help."
“We need more Muslim women to help in the community,” she added, sugesting that “most of them are too scared to talk to the police and would probably shut the front door if a man turned up to talk to them.
"If we have more women turning up, a more diverse front line, then we can reduce more crime."
During the hijab’s design process, NZ Police consulted closely with Ali to make sure the garment met health and safety requirements as well as her own personal needs.
"We recognise the value different perspectives and experiences bring to making us better at what we do,” they said in a statement. "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.
"By reflecting the communities we serve and appreciating different thinking, we aim to achieve better problem-solving and results."
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