Saturday 08 August 2020

Police admin worker can wear hijab with a uniform, says human rights council

Police badge and radio.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

The Dutch police are wrong to ban a Muslim women officer from wearing a headscarf  in a job where her contact with the public is limited, the Dutch human rights council said on Monday.

The ban on religious symbols was introduced to ensure a ‘neutral and uniform appearance and for the safety of the police officer’, but the police have failed to prove these are ‘serious conditions’ for her to be able to carry out her job, the council said.

The case was brought by Sarah Izat, 26, who works in the national police 0900 call centre which the public can phone to make formal complaints, sometimes via a video connection.

The police have banned headscarves and other religious and political symbols on the grounds that police officers should present a ‘neutral and uniform appearance’.

The council said that in this case the need for a neutral appearance is limited, given the nature of the administrative job the young woman does.

Equal treatment

‘Equal treatment legislation states clothing regulations which conflict with freedom of religion laws should be limited to those which are strictly essential,’ the council said. In this case, the council said, the essential nature of the headscarf ban had not been proven. Therefore the headscarf ban cannot be justified.

The human rights council’s rulings are not binding and the police have not yet commented on the findings.

Izat told broadcaster NOS she considered the ruling an important first step. ‘It will not be solved in a day, but hopefully the police can now look to the next step when it comes to headscarves.’

In May, Amsterdam police considered making a headscarf an option with police uniform to attract more people from ethnic minorities but the move was opposed by police chief Erik Akerboom.

In addition, an Amsterdam police woman who went on patrol wearing a headscarf under her cap later that month was heavily criticised for her action.

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