Fighter for religious rights backs decision on bike helmets
A SUNSHINE Coast Sikh was the first person in Australia to fight for the right to wear his turban, even though it went against the standard practice at the time.
Diddillibah's Resham Singh challenged the system in 1968 which wanted to ban him from wearing his turban while on duty for the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade.
The brigade, which later became the Queensland Ambulance Service, wanted Mr Singh to wear a "cap" instead of his turban.
He fought, showing examples where this was allowed across the world, and won.
He fully supported the decision by the State Government yesterday to introduce bicycle helmet exemptions for cyclists on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Mr Singh's son Iqbal, who was the first Sikh to become an Australian school principal, explained how wearing a turban was not a wardrobe decision but fundamental to the core of the religion.
"Religion for anyone, whether you are Catholic or Protestant, is the first thing about your identity and who you are," Iqbal Singh said.
"It is a different issue if you are endangering others. If you are doing something just because you choose, it is a life choice, but it is a little bit different if it is based on a fundamental religious belief which defines who you are."
The decision which led to a change in regulations nearly four decades ago was similar to that which changed Queensland laws this week.
Brisbane Sikh Jasdeep Atwal took his $100 fine for riding a bike without a helmet to court last year and won.
As result, Transport Minister Scott Emerson changed the law.
"By amending the Queensland road rules, we will join Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia which also have these exemptions," Mr Emerson said.
Suncoast Cycling Alliance's John Stephen did not support the law change.
"It will lead to other things (total relaxation of the laws)," he said. "Perhaps this is okay if you are riding on a footpath with kids. But I am a firm believer in helmets. They make it (riding) safer.
"Once I fell off after hitting a pothole and I would have been dead without the helmet."
>> THE TURBAN
- A Sikh, meaning disciple, is a follower of the 15th century religion founded by Guru Nanak.
- A Sikh wears a turban because they "never cut their hair".
- If you don't cut your hair, you need to keep it in order by putting it in a bun and putting on a turban.
About 27 million Sikhs are found worldwide, but most live in India.