Somali woman in Ohio quits police academy because of hijab ban

Ismahan Isse, who wated to become a police offcier in Columbus, Ohio, was prohibited from wearing her head scarf, or hijab. [Fred Squillante / The Columbus Dispatch]

Ismahan Isse, who wanted to become a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, was prohibited from wearing her head scarf, or hijab. [Fred Squillante / The Columbus Dispatch]

It’s a dilemma that many Muslim women in the West face: What would they do if they are told they can’t wear the hijab at the workplace?

Ismahan Isse is a 29-year-old Somali-American mother in Columbus, Ohio, who has an an associate degree in criminal justice. In December, she enrolled in Columbus police academy. But four months later, Ismahan quit.

“I told them the main reason was the scarf,” Ismahan told The Columbus Dispatch. “I want to remain myself.”

Columbus has the second-largest Somali community in the U.S. after the Twin Cities.

“The city hasn’t embraced or encouraged new Americans of any nationality to be a part of its police presence, and that’s disgraceful,” said Hassan Omar, head of the Somali Community Association of Ohio.

The Columbus Police Division’s ban on hijab stands in a sharp contrast to a move by the St. Paul police in Minnesota a year ago.

Kadra Mohamed  officially became a St. Paul police officer on April 30, 2015 [Star Tribune].

Kadra Mohamed officially became a St. Paul police officer on April 30, 2015 [Star Tribune].

The St. Paul Police Department hired the nation’s first Somali woman officer in March last year after the department approved an option for Muslim police officers to wear a police-issued hijab.

Kadra Mohamed , who was first hired as a Community Liaison Officer, graduated from the St. Paul police academy last week.

Kadra Mohamed becomes the first Somali woman in the United States to become a police officer. She graduated from the St….

Posted by Sahan Journal on Thursday, April 30, 2015

After reading about Ismahan’s dilemma online, an Edmonton police recruiter in Canada said he’s interested in hiring Ismahan.

“She really wanted to be a police officer,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Farnell. “Why not touch base (and) see if she is interested in coming to Canada and take a look?

Edmonton is a city with a large Somali community that has no Somali police officers.

Ismahan said she spoke to Farnell on Friday.

“I’m actually considering (the offer) strongly,” she said.

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