BRITISH AND CANADIAN POLICE FORCES OPEN DOOR TO UNIFORM HIJABS (HEADSCARVES), WHILE INDONESIAN POLICE IS STILL RELUCTANT
by Syarif Hidayat
The Police in Great Britain, a Christian majority country since around four years ago have allowed Muslim women members wearing hijab while at work, while the Police in Indonesia, a Muslim majority country have not allowed women members wearing Muslim dress (hijab or headscarves) yet until now.
British Police should be praised for incorporating the hijab into their uniform. It is noteworthy that while some “Muslim” countries including Indonesia are often resistant to giving women their rights, Britain in this case is one step ahead of them.
Since January 31, 2009, British Police have opened the door to female Muslim recruits by incorporating the hijab into the uniform. 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 British 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 British police force’s officers. The number of officers from black and Asian communities stood at about six per cent – short of the 15 per cent target.
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.”
The British 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.”
Police force gives headscarves to female officer
The BritishPolice is issuing its female officers with head coverings to be used in places of worship to improve relations with Muslim communities. The force’s female police officers and Police Community Support Officers are being given uniform-issue head coverings to be worn when they are on duty and entering places of worship
There are two versions of the head coverings to match the black of a police officer’s uniform and the blue of the Police Community Support Officer uniforms.
Both garments are embroidered with Avon and Somerset Constabulary emblem and are suitable to be worn by both uniformed and non-uniformed officers. The head coverings were produced after the force worked with the Mosque Initiative and the Aklima Initiative.
They have already been issued to eight Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and seven police officers, including Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Roberts.
Ms Roberts said: “Producing head coverings for our officers and staff to wear in places of worship is part of our commitment to engage with all our communities. “It recognises and respects the cultural and religious practices of our communities.
“This is a very positive addition to the Avon and Somerset uniform and one which I’m sure will be a welcome item for many of our officers.”
Rashad Azami, Imam and director of the Bath Islamic Society, said: “It is highly pleasing to see that the Avon and Somerset Constabulary is introducing specially designed head coverings for female officers as part of their police uniform.
“This will go a long way in encouraging a trustful relationship between the police and the Muslim community. “The police have been working closely with the Muslim community in the area on many levels for the last few years.
“We have found their cooperation very helpful and hope this step will further strengthen the mutual relationship.”
The head coverings have been issued to 15 officers who work closely with Muslim groups around Bristol and Somerset. They cost £13 each and the force said they can also be used in other religious settings as a mark of respect, for instance to cover the shoulders of a non-uniformed officer in a church.
Canada also allows wearing the Hijab as part of the uniform at work
Meanwhile in Toronto, Canada, in a remarkable development, months after the discussions held with the members of the Islamic community in Canada, Bill Blair, Chief of the Toronto Police Service, agreed to allow the Muslim women to wear the Islamic veil (Hijab), giving them the right to keep their veils on in their workplaces.
This decision will soon become effective, and it must be noted that Mona Tabesh, who works as an Auxiliary officer at the Toronto Police Service, is the first woman to wear a Hijab in a Toronto Police Service uniform, which represents a token of assurance and a step to encourage other Muslim women to work in the police departments.
Moreover, the private restaurant at the headquarters at the Toronto Police Service will provide Halal food for the Muslim employees. It is worth mentioning that the British Police Services have made such a decision some time ago and many cities agreed to allow the Muslim women to wear the Hijab in while performing their police duties…
This is an advanced and civilized step which generally brings about relief, for it practically asserts the issue of respecting the civil and religious rights of the Muslim communities that effectively take part in building the societies they live in and consecrating the human and civilized values of interaction and inter-cultural dialogue.
In a related context, His Eminence, the Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra) sees that “Islam asserts the aspect of commitment in the movement of individual freedom, and prepares the psychological ambience for guaranteeing man’s discipline in the face of his instincts at the same time, through a number of legislations that achieve this purpose.
The Hijab is enlisted as a duty amongst other legislations that prevents man from experiencing an emergent psychological state as his instinct calls on him to satiate it, and he would take his position in the framework of integrated legislative restraints that renders moral discipline something possible and realistic…”
“Thus, the veil constitutes a means for significantly blocking all what sets an atmosphere of deviation.”
Victim Help Leads UK Policewoman to Islam
Offering help to a victim of domestic violence has led a British policewoman to revert to Islam.“I wasn’t looking for any religion at the time but for every question I got answered about Islam I just had five more,” Jayne Kemp, a police community support officer, told Manchester Evening News.
“I think I fell in love with it.”
The 28-year-old Briton came to know about Islam while helping a victim of domestic violence in Eccles, Salford.“It started when I had a woman approach me at work who was experiencing honor-based violence,” she said.
Interested in knowing more about the faith, the mother of two began speaking with other Muslims on Twitter.“Where I work in Eccles there’s a big mosque and big Muslim population, so I thought I should find out more about it,” she said.
Jayne, who now goes out on Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) patrols while donning hijab, recalls that she has always heard that Islam exhorts persecution of women.
“I’d thought Islam was all about women being forced to slave away in the kitchen,” said, Jayne, who pronounced the Shahadah (proclamation of faith) in April and plans to change her name to Aminah.
“But (I) found out it was about being generous with your time, patient and respectful of others.“As I looked into it I saw similarities with Catholicism and also values like looking after your neighbors and valuing the elderly that older people say younger people don’t have any more.”
Jayne says her decision to revert to Islam has been welcomed by her colleagues and family.“I was worried about what my colleagues would think but they have been so understanding,” she said.
“People in Eccles have been great too – most don’t even mention it.”“My family in general are supportive. As long as I’m happy, they’re happy,” Jayne said.
“I was very open about my reading and studying Islam. My sister said the other day I’m the happiest she’s ever seen me.”The Muslim convert says that she would not impose her new faith on her two children.
“If my children had struggled with me covering my hair I wouldn’t have done it,” she said.“They have both asked a lot about it but I would never push Islam on them and they will be brought up Catholic.”
The policewoman was helped to know more about Islam by Muhammad Manzoor, who runs Muslim Twitter account Local Masjid from his Whalley Range home.
“I was humbled Jayne was asking me these questions as it made me find out more about Islam too,” he said.“She has found this religion for herself and hopefully it shows Muslims can mix in society without compromising their faith.”
Jayne hopes that her reversion to Islam would help clear misconceptions about Muslims and their religion.“I just hope by speaking out I can show it is OK for a Muslim woman to work in the police force and also change negative stereotypes about Islam.”
Britain is home to a Muslim community of nearly 2.5 million.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
Indonesian Police: Policewoman wearing headscarf is a violation
Meanwhile Indonesian Police decree No. Skep/702/IX/2005 bans policewomen to use of headscarves or locally called jilbabs. Police emphasizes that the use of headscarf is not yet included in policewomen’s dress code. Therefore, the use of headscarves by female police officers as happens in Aceh is a violation.
“It is violation since it is not mentioned in the regulation,” Head of Public Information at Police Headquarters, Commissioner Agus Rianto said recently.
Rianto said if the rules mentioned a female police might wear the headscarf, then it might be done. On the other hand, the ban is criticized by a number of national figures including Chairman of Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin.
“I condemn the rule which prohibits female police or police women from wearing headscarf. It is not wise,” Syamsuddin said.
According to him, the policy violates the constitutional. In Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, the state guarantees the right of citizens to practise their religions or beliefs. While according to Islam, wearing the headscarf is part of Islamic teachings. Constitutional law expert, Yusril Ihza Mahendra said he would help police women to be allowed to wear headscarves.
Indonesian Policewoman complains over headscarf ban
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) accepted complaints from a police woman because she was not allowed to wear headscarf or jilbab. Deputy Secretary General of MUI, Tengku Zulkarnain said the reason to ban a police woman to wear headscarf was contrary to Indonsian Consitution.
“Article 29 of the Constitution guarantee of freedom to practice their religious beliefs. In Islam, wearing hijab is a obligatory for women. If the Indonesian National Police will ban hijab, it means they violate the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia,” Zulkarnain said .
Zulkarnain believes that wearing headscarf will not hamper her duties and daily tasks and he took Special Region of Aceh as an example. He concerned that only in Aceh policewomen could wear headscarves. MUI plans to consult with the Constitutional Court (MK) if the National Police ban headscarf for its policewomen. will make a rule to ban hijab.
A female police officer serving in Regional Police of Central Java said she was interested to wear headscarf. “After returning from pilgrimage in Mecca, it’s been three years I always want to wear headscarf. I really want to wear headscarf with with uniform in public,” she said, no name available.
Police Hijab Ban Saddens Indonesia Muslims
Muslim scholars and human rights groups are appealing to the Indonesian police to rescind a ban on female personnel to wear hijab while on duty, The Jakarta Post reported June 17.
“The opportunity to become a member of the police force should be equal, including for Muslim women who wear hijabs,” Poengky Indiarti, the executive director of rights watchdog Imparsia, said.
“It’s discrimination if only female members of the corps in Aceh are allowed to wear the garb.”Muslim policewomen in Indonesian have been banned from wearing hijab since 2005.
The ban was part of orders for all police personnel to abide by wearing the official uniform.Violation of the ban puts police member at the risk of dismissal.
“By allowing female members of the police to wear hijabs, the National Police would uphold the country’s motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [Unity in Diversity],” Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra told the Post.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.The Muslim headscarf has been in the spotlight since France banned the outfit in 2004.Since then, several countries banned hijab.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.
Scholars and activists said wearing the hijab is a basic right of Muslim policewomen.“In Indonesia, many institutions have allowed their employees to wear hijabs,” Neta S. Pane, chairman of the Indonesian Police Watch (IPW), said.
“I urge policewomen to look for support from the House of Representatives’ Commission III on legal affairs and the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry for the abolition of the ban.”
Amidhan Shaberah of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) said the hijab ban showed that the police were a “repressive institution”.
But police officials defended the hijab ban as “necessary”.“This has nothing to do with human rights or privileges,” said National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronny Sompie.
He argued that hijab could compromise a female officer’s work, especially during conflicts involving two groups of faiths or in religious conflicts.“The National Police have their own regulations.”
Another police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto, said the police would not change the policy on hijab.“We are complying with the decree until it is amended.”
Indonesian police to consider allowing headscarves for policewomen
But another police commissioner, Adrianus Meliala, signaled that the police could amend the ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf.“According to the National Police General Supervision Inspectorate, they will issue a regulation that allows female police officers to wear hijabs, but they have to be taken off during official ceremonies.”
Indonesian National Police Commission will consider headscarves for policewomen by permitting its female officers to wear headscarves or locally know as jilbab.
“This new rule will accommodate the wearing of headscarves by female police officers, since our society want us to give a chance to Muslim policewomen to wear headscarves,” Member of National Police Commission, Hamidah said.
The new regulation is needed to avoid further polemic. The new policy is a way of accomodating its female members from all religious backgrounds.
Currently police’s dress code does not allow policewomen to wear headscarves. The national police even considered wearing headscarves for policewomen in Aceh as violation.
However, in Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, the state guarantees the right of all citizens to practise their religions or beliefs. While according to Islam, wearing the headscarf is part of Islamic teachings. (HSH)