UK policewomen dress as Muslims to 'celebrate diversity'

"In Your Shoes Day" scheme also allows a group of Muslim women to visit Sheffield police holding cells.

Muslim women 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Muslim women 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In an attempt to promote community cohesion and increase understanding, policewomen in Sheffield, south Yorkshire, dressed in full Muslim garb for a day as part of a recent police initiative. Three female police officers covered themselves head to foot as part of the initiative, called "In Your Shoes Day," to improve community understanding in the region. The scheme also allowed a group of Muslim women to visit police holding cells, a closed-circuit TV control room and get a taste of the daily duties of a police officer. The police officers wore traditional Muslim outfits and a full-length black jilbab plus a niqab, which covers the face, leaving slits for eyes. They were accompanied by four Muslim women for the day to help them learn more about the Islamic faith while going on a tour of Sheffield city center. A spokesperson for the South Yorkshire Police said the initiative was designed to help officers interact better with the Muslim community across Sheffield. One of the participants, Sgt. Deb Leonard, described her experience in a South Yorkshire Police in-house magazine. "I have gained an appreciation and understanding of what Muslim females experience when they walk out in public in clothing appropriate to their beliefs," she said. "We are keen to gain a better understanding of issues which our communities face." The article added: "The exercise is just one of many activities South Yorkshire Police has planned with communities and ethnic minority leaders to secure strong relationships, celebrate diversity and encourage integration, working towards a safer, closer society." The initiative was criticized as a "politically correct gimmick" by the Taxpayers Alliance, a campaign group for lower taxes and efficient government. "This is an absurd diversion from real policing," said Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers' Alliance. "People want the police out catching criminals, not indulging in politically correct gimmicks. The police are overstretched as it is without officers being paid to do other things than their real job," he said. "You just couldn't make it up," said Douglas Murray, director of the Center for Social Cohesion, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on issues related to community cohesion in the UK. "The victims of crime must be amazed that the police have so much time on their hands that they can spend a day playing dress-up. "This is a complete waste of police time and taxpayers' money. It's not the duty of police to empathize with particular sections of the community. It is the duty of the police to prevent crime and catch criminals," Murray said. Murray asked if the police are planning to dress as members of other communities such as Hindus and Buddhists. "As far as we are concerned this form of dress is a symbol of oppression of women. The police should not be encouraging it," said Sid Cordle, from the Christian People's Alliance. "If they really want to know how Muslim women feel they could learn far more by going and living among them and talking to them."