A new graduate of the New Zealand Police has become the first officer to wear a hijab as part of the official uniform.
Constable Zeena Ali graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College last week, according to Vice.
The 30-year-old officer donned an official police-issued hijab during her graduation.
“It feels great to be able to go out and show the New Zealand Police hijab as part of my uniform,” Ali told NZ Herald. “I think that seeing it, more Muslim women will want to join as well.”
More than 50% of her graduating class were also women.
Born in Fiji but raised in New Zealand, Ali shifted her career from customer service to law enforcement after the 2019 Christchurch terror attack that killed 49 people, the BBC reported.
The suspect, a 28-year-old Australian man named Brenton Tarrant, was arrested after the shooting.
Ali was helping one of the security guards she was working with to join the police force when she realized she also wanted to join.
“As I started that process the Christchurch terror attack happened and that’s when I realized more Muslim women were needed in the police, to go and support people with things like this,” she said.
The NZ Police worked closely with the Massey Design School, which came to visit Ali at the police college to make tweaks to the hijab they were creating.
She said she felt “great” wearing the design as she made recommendations before and after her training. The police also ensured the hijab met all health and safety requirements. The official design was finished just in time for Ali to wear at her graduation.
The police college also made sure she could practice her faith, Ali said in a post made by NZ Police. There were halal meals and a prayer room.
“When I had to go swimming I was able to wear long sleeves – a full swim suit,” she said.
Ali will be posted in the Tāmaki Makaurau area.
The police issued a statement to recognize the value of diversity on the job.
“We need people with a range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels – diversity is essential so that we can effectively serve the needs of New Zealand’s communities now and in the future,” it said.
Feature Images via New Zealand Police