Daily Mail (London), May 7, 2009
Police are trying to develop bullet-proof turbans for Sikh officers to wear instead of helmets.
The headwear would allow those who insist on always wearing turbans to join gun or riot squads for the first time.
Scientists are investigating whether bullet-proof Kevlar could be used for the 15ft strip of cloth a turban requires.
British Police Sikh Association vice-chairman Gian Singh Chahal said: ‘Sikh officers have been prohibited from becoming firearms officers because our religion does not allow us to remove the turban.
‘Nor can we wear the NATO helmet for public order policing.’
He said research had already begun into finding the perfect material to create a ballistic turban, but that the high-tech headgear would need to pass Home Office tests before being used by officers.
He said: ‘There has been some research done into producing a ballistic material for turbans and we would like to follow any opportunity where we could manufacture a ballistic product–made out of something like Kevlar–that would ensure a certain degree of protection so Sikh police officers could take part in these roles.
‘We need to approach the Home Office and police forces and to gain their acceptance so that Sikh officers could become firearms and public order officers whilst wearing turbans.
‘There needs to be a recognition from the Home Office that would allow Sikh officers to carry out these roles.
‘The will is there from chief constables but perhaps not yet from the Home Office.’
One Sikh PC, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘It would be incredible if they developed a bulletproof turban.
‘It would make life a lot easier for us and would mean we could go for jobs as firearms and public order officers–which a lot of Sikh officers would like to do, but are currently not allowed to go for.’
Last year West Midlands Police spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to find protective headgear to fit over a turban after a Sikh officer applied to join the counter-terrorist Operational Support Unit.
The force spent 18 months looking for a solution, but failed to find any suitable equipment.
The officer was rejected from the job because he couldn’t fit a helmet and respirator over his turban, and instead returned to his job on the beat.
The unnamed officer reportedly claimed to have been discriminated against and was on long-term sick leave suffering from stress.
Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said Sikhism is the only religion in the world in which wearing a turban is mandatory for all adult males.
He said: ‘It is mandatory for adult Sikh men to wear the turban.’
Turbans consist of around 15ft of cloth wound around the head.
Sikh men wear them to cover their hair, which they leave uncut in accordance with their religion. They often wear their long beards rolled up.
As well as being a sign of spirituality, the turban is also a symbol of Sikh identity and of courage.
There are more than 750,000 Sikhs, the only religion allowed to ride motorbikes without crash helmets, in the UK.
Sikh soldiers serving in the British Army refused to wear helmets during the First and Second World Wars.
They fought with their turbans on, several receiving the Victoria Cross for acts of gallantry.
Legendary British General Sir Frank Messervy praised the Sikh soldiers who laid down their lives in the two world wars.
He said: ‘In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded.
‘They all died or were wounded for the freedom of Britain and the world, and during shell fire, with no other protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.
‘It is down to individual forces to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the religion or beliefs of individual officers, as far as operational requirements permit.’