By Asia Samachar Team | GERMANY |
The right for Sikhs to don a turban instead of a helmet when riding a motorcycle took a beating in Germany when a court ruled declined to exempt from the rule on religious grounds.
This is a setback for the growing Sikh community in Europe, largely migrants from India, who enjoy the exemptions in UK, some provinces in Canada as well as countries like Malaysia and Singapore.
Motorcyclists must wear a helmet and cannot be exempted from the rule on religious grounds, one of Germany’s top five courts has ruled.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, one of Germany’s top five courts, rejected a Sikh man’s appeal, who had argued that the helmet would not fit over his turban.
“People wearing a turban on religious grounds are not for that reason alone exempt from the obligation to wear a helmet,” said presiding judge Renate Philipp, according to a DPA report.
He added the claimant has to accept this restriction to his freedom of religion as it serves to uphold the rights of others, too.
The ruling yesterday (4 July) backed a verdict from a lower court in the southern city of Constance, which had found that driving a motorcycle was not essential for the claimant, as he also had access to a car and a delivery van.
The Leipzig court argued that the obligation to wear a helmet not only protects the driver but also keeps other drivers from being traumatised if they cause heavy injury to someone driving without a helmet, the report added. The court also said a driver wearing a helmet would be better placed to help others in case of an accident.
In other jurisdiction, Sikhs have made progress in their right to don the turban in other spheres, including when serving in the police and the armed forces. The most recent advancement took place in Marietta, a city northwest of Atlanta, whose police department has announced that it will allow Sikhs in uniform to wear a turban and maintain the beard.
On 3 Jan 2017, the US army issued a directive that requires brigade-level commanders to grant religious accommodations for hijabs, beards, and turbans with unshorn beards and hair for soldiers in all roles unless the requester’s religious belief is not sincere or if the Army identifies a specific, concrete hazard. The directive makes it easier for Sikhs to serve with their religious articles of faith intact.
Last month, the US Air Force granted a Sikh airman permission to wear a turban, beard and long hair. This allowed Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa, a crew chief at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, to become the first active airman to get religious accommodation which authorising him to adhere to Sikh religious grooming and dress principles while serving in the Air Force.
Another US police department allows Sikhs to don turban, keep beard (Asia Samachar, 3 July 2019)
The turban-wearing British bus driver who changed the law (Asia Samachar, 30 April 2019)