A police officer who helped design a new hijab because the one provided was uncomfortable and unsafe said she hopes it will inspire other Muslim women to join the force.
Pc Uzma Amireddy, a positive action coordinator, said the hijab given to her by North Yorkshire Police was uncomfortable, did not look good and was potentially unsafe in hostile situations.
She told the PA news agency: “If you want to attract people from diverse backgrounds they have to feel and look good in their uniform and something like that certainly will put people off joining.
“That’s why I took it on myself.”
After she took the issue to her chief officer – Pc Arfan Rahouf, who is the force’s operational lead for faith and belief, got involved in the development.
With input from Pc Amireddy, he set about finding a hijab that would be suitable.
They sourced one from a local supplier and suggested some alterations to help make it more suitable for use by officers – for example, the head and neck are detachable, meaning if someone were to grab and pull it, it will not pull around the neck.
Pc Rahouf said: “It looks professional, it looks smart, it’s safe, she feels beautiful in in it, she feels comfortable, she feels valued by the organisation because they’ve provided it and it’s just something that represents her faith.”
On Monday, Pc Amireddy wore the hijab on the streets for the first time.
She said: “When I went out on the streets of North Yorkshire – and I know it’s only one shift and I don’t know what the future holds – but it went really well and I think people saw past the hijab – which I wanted.
“Because I don’t want to be in the spotlight, I don’t want to be singled out. I want people to see me as a human being and a person doing the job that they love to do.
“And they saw me as a police officer on the doorstep, not as somebody from a Muslim background and that’s what I wanted.”
Now the pair are hoping the hijab might be taken up by forces more widely.
Pc Rahouf said: “We’ve been invited to have conversations nationally to see if this can be incorporated as a standard hijab with police forces across the country.”
For Pc Amireddy, she believes she has already seen the potential power the hijab could have.
She said: “A friend of mine was in the pipeline of joining the police force and when I told her and she’d seen the hijab and she tried it on, she said ‘you know what, I’m really happy with this’.
“So for me, that was my proudest moment – that I’ve made a Muslim female happy with joining the police force.
“She doesn’t have to face those obstacles and barriers that I had to.”
North Yorkshire Police commended the two officers, saying they had “worked really hard” to “make this important change happen”.
A spokesperson said: “It’s really important for North Yorkshire Police to make sure that the uniform for each and every police officer is fit for purpose.
“Inclusion and diversity is a key agenda for the police service. We need to be more representative of the communities we serve, in order for us to be an inclusive workforce and deliver a better service to all of our communities.”