The Edmonton Police Service is to reveal a prototype official hijab for its officers this week, following testing to ensure its safety.
It is understood the Muslim headscarf would be black, and designed to be worn underneath the standard police cap.
Never having witnessed fascism taking hold, I wouldn’t claim to know it to see it. But whenever commentators have likened the Parti Québécois’ proposed “secularism charter” to the early drumbeats of some historically dire intolerance, my first instinct has been to scoff.
It’s certainly stupid and unfair to threaten public servants with unemployment if they don’t forsake certain religious customs, all to solve a problem that no one except the pollsters seems able to quantify. It’s certainly disturbing that any political party would stoop so low in search of support, and all the more so that the PQ seems to be finding it down there.
But whatever the polls say, Montreal seems more cosmopolitan every time I visit. Despite reports of an uptick in anti-Muslim confrontations, surely it’s a fantastically unlikely breeding ground for any sort of widespread, street-level discrimination.
Unlike a traditional hijab, it is to be affixed with tear-away snaps, and designed so as not to obstruct an officer’s vision, or even breathing, during a struggle or other dynamic situation. It is being tested by the force’s tactics training unit, though a final version has not yet been decided, said Leila Daoud, a civilian spokesperson for the force.
Scott McKeen, a city councillor who has helped immigrants settle in Edmonton, called it a “gesture of inclusion” toward a local Muslim community that “can feel a little skittish at times” about Islamophobia. He compared it to Quebec, which has taken precisely the opposite tack, and mandated that any religious garb on state employees is to be banned as contrary to the province’s values.
“One of the perceptions about Edmonton and Alberta is that we’re kind of redneck,” Mr. McKeen said. Offering the hijab to police recruits, especially in the absence of any political pressure, “is sort of saying we want to have a diverse police service that reflects the diversity and multicultural aspects of Edmonton…. I’m proud of us.”
Overt displays of Islamic faith on government workers have been controversial, and have inspired misinformation and fear-mongering. Mr. McKeen laughed at the reaction of a local paper, which printed a doctored image of a police officer in full niqab, which the EPS pointed out is fake.
“We wanted to distance ourselves from that image,” Ms. Daoud said.
A niqab is a full-face covering with small eye holes. A hijab is a headscarf to cover the hair.
In fact, there is as yet no picture of the official Edmonton police headscarf, but a prototype is to be revealed later this week, Ms. Daoud said.