Q&A – Wearing Hijab in the Royal Navy – World Hijab Day
What are your experiences of wearing Hijab in the service? – have you always worn it or was there a transition during your time serving?
When I started basic training, I was not wearing a hijab. I was born and raised a practising Muslim, but going through the recruitment process, I assumed that I could not wear a hijab in the Royal Navy (RN). Throughout the process, it was never mentioned that I could wear a hijab. It was not until 5 years after joining that I found that I could wear the hijab with my uniform.
How was basic training for you being a Muslim woman?
I was the only Muslim in my class during basic training. For some of my fellow recruits, I was the first Muslim that they had ever met. I was asked a lot of questions about being a Muslim and joining the RN. Everyone including staff and recruits were very respectful and accommodating of my religious needs. The chaplain at the time gave me a prayer mat which I still use to this day and showed me the room I could use to pray. This was a bit farther away from the accommodation block I was in, so I ended up doing my prayers in the mess. My mess mates had no issues with this and were very supportive.
Can you explain why you choose to wear your Hijab and what this means to you as a Muslim?
Muslim women wear the hijab as per religious directions. In Islam, the hijab is not merely wearing a headscarf but it is broad in scope. For me, it is an act of obedience to Allah first and a sign of modesty second. Hijab is a constant state of remembrance of God and acts as a reminder of my faith and religious teachings.
How does your Hijab affect your uniform?
Wearing the hijab does not affect my uniform. Since I started wearing the hijab at work, I have not had any challenges with physically wearing it on a day-to-day basis. At work, I opt for the instant hijabs which are easy to wear and with the uniforms. These are very practical when I am at sea or on exercises that require me to be always on the go. The only challenge I can say there is, is that I have to source these myself. They are not issued by the clothing store as part of the uniform.
Have you felt supported in your faith by the Royal Navy and how does this work for you when away at sea/daily working with Salat (daily prayers)?
As a practising Muslim, I have always felt supported by my chain of command. At sea, my DO was happy for me to pray in at work because it meant I was not in people’s way in the mess. The messes can be busy at sea so having the space to pray without any interference meant a lot to me. Shoreside, there have been multi-faith prayer rooms I can use to perform my daily salat. During the working hours, I manage to complete my prayers during my lunch break. I have been at sea during Ramadan and always had food put aside by the galley staff ready for when I break my fast.
Have you been able to link with other practising Muslims?
I am a member of the Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA). This is an association that provides advice and guidance to serving Muslims. Through AFMA, I have connected with other practising Muslims. We have annual conferences and network events where we gain advice on balancing our faith while serving in the military.
What tips would you give to those considering joining the Royal Navy or for other Muslim females that are currently serving and have not considered wearing their Hijab?
To anyone that is thinking of joining the RN or the military in general, the Armed Forces welcome the opportunity to wear clothing and with religious significance. As Muslim woman that opts to wear the hijab, one can wear trousers and cover arms when practically possible to do so. Being in the RN has not been in the way of my religious practice.
PO M Camara