Sikh rider turban plea knocked on head

Germany has knocked back a plea by a Sikh rider to wear a turban instead of a helmet on religious grounds.

However, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig says wearing a helmet does not infringe on Sikhs’ freedom of worship.    

It follows the appeal plea by a Sikh man who also argued that the helmet would not fit over his turban.

Applications for turbans to be worn instead of helmets have also been knocked back in France.

Denmark is cracking down on helmet exemptions that require a doctor’s note or a legitimate non-medical reason such as religious grounds. 

ExemptionsTurban sikhs motorcycle helmets plea

Sikhs are exempt from wearing motorcycle helmets in Indian, Pakistan (in Peshawar only), the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia, and the UK introduced the exemption in 1976.

In New Zealand, Sikhs can ride with a turban instead of a helmet at speeds under 60km/h.

Australian Sikhs are also seeking the same exemptions.

Aussie Sikhs plea

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides for charity sikhs turban plea
Aussie Sikhs

The Sikh Motorcycle Club of Australia told us in 2017 that motorcycle and bicycle helmet rules are discriminatory.

They were calling for an exemption for all cyclists and for motorcyclists and scooterists riding at low speeds only.

Founding member Daljeet Singh told us that while initiated male and female Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban, Sikh Motorcycle Club members wear a bandana-style scarf underneath their helmets.

The Central Coast of NSW Sikhs say they have campaigned to Coffs Coast Council for the right to not wear helmets on city streets signposted up to 60km/h.

However, the matter would have to be decided by the NSW Centre for Road Safety (CRS). Neither council nor the CRS can find any record of contact from the group.

There are about 126,000 Sikhs in Australia, according to the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics census. It is the fifth largest religion after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Victoria has seen the sharpest increase in the number of Sikhs with 52,762. The state with the second highest Sikh population is NSW with 31,737 Sikhs, Queensland 17,433, Western Australia 11,897, South Australia 8808, ACT 2142 and Northern Territory and Tasmania have under 700 Sikhs each. 

Turban symbol

Why do Sikhs wear turbans? Here is an explanation from Sikh Council of Australia’s website.

Unshorn hair (‘Kesh’) are also an essential part of the Sikh Code of Conduct. This makes Turban an essential part of a Sikh’s attire. Like the ‘Kirpan’ issue, this is another issue where the Government and its departments as well as the wider Australian community need to be informed about the importance of the Turban for a Sikh. More importantly, in order to tackle the hate crimes and discrimination based on the ‘looks’ the Australian community is being educated about the distinction between a Sikh and other members of the community who may also wear a Turban or cover their head or perhaps may look the same due to other items of clothing (for example the salwar and kameez for the women).

Hopefully the Government will introduce measures which will allow the wider Australian community to be more aware and tolerant and not discriminate against someone wearing a Turban and not assume that they might be a terrorist.


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