Hijab and the Job: A Thematic Analysis of the Lived Experiences of Muslim Women in the New Zealand Police

Malak, Hana
Watts, Jennie
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Master of Communication
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis explores the experiences of Muslim women employed by the New Zealand Police, shedding light on their perceptions of the workplace and collegial interactions. The study explores the challenges faced by Muslim women working in New Zealand, particularly in a male-dominated workplace, due to their gender, race, religion, and societal pressure surrounding the hijab. It also examines the intersectional elements of their identities and the layering of minority experiences perceived by the women. The research highlights the need to challenge stereotypes and provide a more nuanced representation of Muslim women in the media and society. The data in this qualitative study was collected through semi-structured one on one interviews and analysed using thematic analysis. The findings reveal that the participants’ behavior reflected their Muslim identity and alignment of Islamic values with New Zealand Police values. Participants took agency in their behaviour and interactions with their colleagues and public, breaking down negative misconceptions through educating others, in an ‘ambassador’ role. Although they welcomed the New Zealand police’s introduction of the hijab as a symbol of inclusivity, the action led to a paradoxical sense of exclusion as it made the women stand out as ‘other’. The study highlights the strength and resilience of Muslim women in the New Zealand Police as they negotiate the intersection of work and commitment to their beliefs. These findings indicated the need for more comprehensive cultural sensitivity training to help police staff understand the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of the communities they serve.

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