The hijab has become an optional part of the Police Scotland uniform, as an effort by the force to encourage Muslim women to join the service. Previously, Muslim female officers could only wear the religious headscarf with approval. According to The Telegraph, Police Scotland said it is working to make the force “representative of the communities we serve.”
“I am delighted to make this announcement and welcome the support from both the Muslim community, and the wider community, as well as police officers and staff,” Chief Constable Phil Gormley has been quoted in on the Scotland Police website. He said the organisation is working towards ensuring its service is representative of the communities they serve.
The approval’s announcement came on August 23, 10 years after London’s Metropolitan Police approved a uniform hijab. Gormley said, “I hope that this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse and adds to the life skills, experiences and personal qualities that our officers and staff bring to policing the communities of Scotland.”
The Scottish Police Muslim Association (SPMA) — an organisation set up in 2010 to bridge gaps with Muslim communities — welcomed the formal announcement. According to its website, the association’s chairman Fahad Bashir called it a positive step in the right direction. “No doubt this will encourage more women from Muslim and minority ethnic backgrounds to join Police Scotland,” he said.
Currently, six female Muslim officers work for Police Scotland. However, none of them wear the hijab either on duty or even when they are out with the force. The most recent figure for the overall strength of the force – released at the end of June – was 17,242.
Official figures showed that there were 127 applications from black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates to join Police Scotland in 2015-16, that accounts to just 2.6 per cent of the total number applying to work for the force.
However, for the force to meet the black and minority ethnic groups (BME) national average of 4 per cent, an additional 650 BME recruits are required across all areas of the business.
This move, when seen in the backdrop of the controversial banning of the burkini by several French towns, provides a stark contrast in attitude towards ethnic clothing.