A Muslim mother and daughter have told how they were compelled to join Police Scotland after the force reversed a ban on wearing headscarves while on duty.
Shafqat and Aleena Rafi, of Clydebank, are set to become the first officers in Scotland – special or regular – to wear the hijab on the beat once they complete the recruitment process.
It comes as Philip Gormley, chief constable of Police Scotland Chief Constable, admitted that the force needed to improve diversity within its ranks as only one per cent of officers in Scotland come from an ethnic minority background compared to four percent of the population as a whole – rising to 12 per cent in Glasgow.
In August, the force confirmed that headscarves would become an optional part of its uniform.
Speaking at Tulliallan Police College ahead of a fitness test, Miss Rafi, 19, said that seeing police officers in headscarves will help to “break down the barriers”.
“I had reservations about the hijab and how that was going to be accepted.”
“They said it wouldn’t be a problem but it wasn’t concrete at the outset, it is now.
“People have stereotypes about people from ethnic minorities wearing a hijab – that they are oppressed or forced to wear it. People will see we can do anything – it doesn’t make us any less able.”
Her mother Mrs Rafi, 50, said Police Scotland had been very supportive of their application to join,
“Sometimes people just see the hijab and not what is underneath. Our religion teaches us to help each other. Islam means peace.”
The force has established a “Positive Action Team” as part of their recruitment process in a bid to attract more people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Chief Inspector Ann Bell, who runs the team, said relaxing the rules around uniform had helped boost the appeal of the force in those communities. She said:
“Whenever we mention the introduction of the hijab at events in the community there’s a round of applause – it has been really, really well received.”
“I can’t say that just because of that we’re suddenly going to have a load of girls saying they are going to join, but it is certainly showing we are open to them doing so.”
While senior officers say it is too early to say how much of an impact the introduction of the hijab for Muslim females, for example, has had they expect an increase in interest among that community in joining the force.
Speaking to The Herald, Mr Gormley was asked whether Police Scotland had been sufficiently representative the community it serves.
He said: “No it’s not – I’m not going to dress that up.
“We have well over 100 potential recruits here to have a look at this facility and what we can offer.
“There are a number of contributory factors. The hijab is one of them, and if that makes more people consider us then so much the better.”
“We police by consent and we need the consent of all communities. That trust is the bedrock of what we do.”