Judge rules in favour of Muslim police officer wearing hijab while on duty

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 10, CMC – A High Court judge has ruled that Muslim women police officers are to be allowed to wear their hijabs while on duty after indicating that a Special Reserve Police (SRP) officer’s constitutional right to freedom of religion was infringed by the denial of her request to wear her headdress.

Justice Margaret Mohammed Friday ruled that there was no evidence that constable Sharon Roop’s wearing the hijab would affect the efficiency of the police service.

The judge also said that the police service regulation was unconstitutional, invalid, null and void to the extent that it made no provision for the wearing of the hijab.

Former attorney general, Anand Ramlogan, leading a three –member team, had filed a constitutional motion against the state last year in favour of Roop, a wireless operator.

Following the ruling, Roop, a nine year veteran, told reporters that she was elated by the ruling.

“It is a great victory for Muslim policewomen and others in the protective service, who can now stand up and be counted.” Roop said, adding that every time she had to take off her hijab while on duty, she felt stripped of her identity.

“This is who I am,” she said, noting that there were women police officers around the world who were allowed to wear their hijab while on duty.

Justice Mohammed is expected to rule on compensation for Roop for breach of her constitutional rights next February.

But in her 63-page decision, the judge said the intent of the framers of the Constitution, in shaping the future society of TT, was for an environment where people would be free to observe their religious belief, rituals, practices and activities in every sphere of their lives.

“The intention of the framers of the Constitution was also for an evolving plural society in Trinidad and Tobago where religious symbols such as the cross, the rosary, raksha sutra, sindoor and hijab are to be permitted in public places, the workplace and in schools.”

The judge also dismissed the state’s argument that Roop’s request would open the floodgates for others, pointing out that “religious symbols are already worn by police officers with their uniform.”

Justice Mohammed has ordered her ruling sent to the office of the Commissioner of Police, as well as the Police Service Commission.

As a result of the ruling, the regulations will have to be amended to permit women police officers to wear their hijabs while on duty. The judge said she also did her own research on the hijab.

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