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Why Sikhs Don't Even Need Bullet Proof Turbans


Jun 1, 2004
By Hardeep Singh

When I first came across the bizarre story about Sikh police officers hoping to develop a bullet proof turban it reminded me of a sketch from Only Fools and Horses.

In this sketch Del wisecracks about a Dr. Singh not wearing a crash helmet because of his huge turban. Del’s entrepreneurial spirit leads him to developing prototype ‘Trotters Crash Turban’. With all the best will in the world, Del innovation was doomed from its inception

Under the Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976, "any follower of the Sikh religion" is exempt from having to wear a crash helmet if he is wearing his turban instead.

A newly formed National Sikh Police association (BPSA) has made bullet proof turbans a top priority, so that Sikh officers can serve within specialist firearms units and as riot officers. The chairman of the group is pushing for more research into finding the ideal material for a ballistic Turban.

As a Turban wearing Sikh I noticed that the coverage in the press circumvented some very obvious practical points of consideration.

The first point takes us to the grounds of International Cricket. Cricketers on the Global stage such as Monty Panesar (pictured) and Harbhajan Singh are both Sikhs. In order for them to fulfil their contractual obligations, they both wear a smaller ‘Under Turban’ beneath their helmets.

As a consequence they preserve their identity whilst adhering to safety regulations of the sport. The English Cricket Board needless to say has not made any special provision for them, nor have any demands been made.

On second point and one of historical relevance, displays at the Victoria & Albert Museum corroborate that the armies of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the one eyed charasmatic ruler of the Sikh Kingdoms, had ‘Turban helmets’ made of steel. These were worn over the turban as the name suggests and on inspection allowed space for the ‘top not’.

The case for the ballistic turban is far from unequivocal. Ironically Sikh soldiers serving under the British Army refused to wear helmets during World War I and World War II, several receiving the Victoria Cross for acts of Gallantry.

Practical adaptations may offer an alternative solution, however common sense should prevail thus avoiding expense to the Tax payer. Notably, debates of this hue can only be aired in a progressive multi-cultural society such as Great Britain.

In stark contrast across the Atlantic, Sikhs have been barred from wearing turbans in the US Army. This is tentamount to a huge misunderstanding of Sikh identity, partially fueled by confusion around the Sikh turban post 9/11. The Sikh Coalition a US civil rights group is lobbying to readdress this issue with the ‘Sikh Right to Serve campaign’.

Although I can’t see the bullet proof turban coming out any time soon, I guess if it ever becomes a reality its popularity may extend far beyond the British Police force. Perhaps it may become the head dress of choice for Sikhs in NATO as well as seasoned Sikh snowboarders across the world.
Minority Report - Why Sikhs don't even need "bullet proof" turbans


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