The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is letting its women wear the hijab as a part of their uniform. The decision comes as several towns in France banned Muslim women from wearing the Burkini on their beaches.
"The commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently approved this addition to the uniform," the Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's spokesman said earlier this week.
"This is intended to reflect the diversity in our communities better and encourage more Muslim women to consider the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a career option," he added.
Experts tested three types of hijabs - the traditional Islamic headscarf - to see which one was most suited for police work. The model which was chosen did not hinder officers' work and could be removed quickly and easily if needed, Montreal daily "La Press" reported.
The RCMP's spokeswoman, Julie Gagnon, said the force offered female officers the choice to wear the garment since it reflects the diversity of the police. However, it was unclear how many members wore the hijab.
The policy was enacted in January this year. Although the exact reasons for introducing the hijab were unclear, "La Presse" said some 30 officers had asked to relax rules for religious or cultural reasons since the last two years.
The RCMP's uniform, an iconic symbol in Canada, includes a red serge tunic, leather riding boots and a wide-brimmed felt campaign hat. The force courted controversy in 1990 when Sikh officers demanded to wear turbans as part of their uniforms.
The RCMP is the third police force in Canada to have the headscarf as part of its uniform. Others include police forces in Toronto and Edmonton. Police in Britain, Sweden, Norway and some other states have adopted similar cultural symbols into their forces.
The move to include the Islamic headscarf as part of an official uniform in Canada comes amid a heated debate in Europe around traditional Islamic garments, especially the full veil, the burqa, and the Islamic swimsuit, or the burkini. Recently, several towns in southern France banned the whole-body swimming dress favored by Muslim women.
mg/jil (AP, AFP)