HER NAME is Kadra Mohamed, a Somali-American police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota – and she is the first to wear a hijab while on duty.
Kadra was hired by the St. Paul Police Department in 2015 as a way to improve relations with the 80,000 Somali-Americans living in the country’s largest known Somali community.
The 24-year-old is one of four female Somali graduates from the academy.
Her hijab is specially designed for police work, with a row of buttons that can come undone if the head wrap is used as a strangling weapon against her in a combat situation.
However, her presence has divided this Midwestern city of 290,000 residents.
One blogger called her hiring a politically correct and potentially perilous gesture. By allowing her to wear a hijab, he wrote, the department “has placed her life on the line in more ways than one.”
While older Somalis say she’s breaking a cultural creed: wearing pants and short-sleeve shirts and working closely among men in public.
And some officers complain she is breaking a long-standing uniform code.
“I’m a target for those with concerns about safety,” she says. “I’m a short, black, Muslim female. Of course I stand out.”
Kadra was born in a refugee camp in Kenya in 1991. Not long after, her parents fled Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, and its nearly daily bombings and strife.
One thing she’s not afraid of is arresting a Somali man, an unimaginable scenario for many in the male-dominated culture.
“I’ll speak to him in our language — Somali to Somali,” she told the LA Times. “I’ll explain that this is my job.
“He broke the law. And there are steps that must be taken.”