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Gardaí not reviewing uniform policy about hijabs

Police forces in Scotland and Canada have announced they are allowing female members to wear the hijab.

File photo of a woman wearing a hijab
File photo of a woman wearing a hijab
Image: Shutterstock/Taraskin

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA is not currently looking into changing its uniform policy to accommodate people who wear hijabs or turbans.

A spokesperson from the Garda Press Office said the current Garda uniform, which was introduced in 2006, is not under review at present.

However, they added that this could change in the future.

During the week, police forces in Scotland and Canada announced they will allow female members to wear the hijab, a veil traditionally worn by Muslim women.

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, the chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council (IMPIC), told TheJournal.ie he welcomed the move by Scottish and Canadian police.

“These forces are giving the right signal, embracing all members of the community. They are sending a very strong signal that Muslims are part of the community.

“French authorities can learn from it – how to be inclusive,” he said, referencing the recent burkini bans in several towns in France.

On Friday, France’s highest administrative court suspended the ban in a French Riviera town after it was challenged by rights groups. The decision may set a precedent for 30 or so French towns which have banned the all-body swimwear.

Al-Qadri noted that the Muslim community here is smaller than in Scotland and Canada, and there may not be an immediate need to look at allowing hijabs to be worn by gardaí.

File Photo The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors is to hold a special conference in June to discuss possible industrial action if the government does not commit to pay restoration. AGSI General Secretary John Jacob called on delegates at the a File photo of gardaí Source: RollingNews.ie

However, he said he believes this issue should be looked at in the future as it would lead to more Muslims considering joining An Garda Síochána.

I do feel that people would be more interested in joining. It seems like a very small thing, but for members of Sikh and Muslim communities dress code is very significant.

He said he thinks Ireland is, in general, “very inclusive” of Muslims.

‘Greater diversity’

In 2013, the High Court dismissed a challenge by a member of the Irish Sikh community after he was not allowed to wear a turban while training for the Garda reserves.

When questioned about the turban issue in the Dáil last year, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “All members of An Garda Síochána wear the same uniform. As I understand, other forces have taken a different view and there was a long discussion in the UK on the matter.

“As Ireland becomes more multicultural, with members of different communities getting involved, there will be changes to accommodate that. I would like to see greater diversity among An Garda Síochána. It is not an issue I have examined since I became Minister for Justice and Equality.”

shutterstock_6654031 File photo of a man wearing a turban Source: Shutterstock/Roberto Cerruti

When contacted during the week, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the issue is “a matter for the garda authorities”.

A spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents thousands of rank-and-file gardaí, echoed this sentiment, saying: “This is a matter for An Garda Síochána.”

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Canada and Scotland 

During the week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced it is going to allow its female officers to wear hijabs as part of their uniforms.

Government spokesman Scott Bardsley said the move is ”intended to better reflect the diversity in our communities and encourage more Muslim women to consider the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a career option”.

The RCMP faced a public outcry in 1990 over a decision to allow Sikh officers to wear turbans as part of their uniforms. Attitudes have softened since then and Canadians have embraced the change.

Tweet by @Police Scotland Source: Police Scotland/Twitter

Closer to home, Police Scotland announced on Tuesday that the hijab is now an optional part of its uniform.

In a statement, police said the decision ”will encourage women from Muslim communities, who may previously not have seen policing as a career option, to reconsider”.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley noted:

Like many other employers, especially in the public sector, we are working towards ensuring our service is representative of the communities we serve.

Other police forces have permitted their officers to wear the turban or hijab for some time, with both being allowed by the Metropolitan Police in London for over 15 years.

- contains reporting from © AFP 2016

Read: Designer says burkini bans in France have boosted sales of the swimwear

Read: Channel 4 reporter says the Sun’s hijab criticism “won’t stop me from doing my job”

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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