Tory MP Criticises Government for Sikh Helmet Exemption in Northern Ireland

Shipley MP Phillip Davies criticises exemptive legislation as
Shipley MP Phillip Davies criticises exemptive legislation as “creating different laws for different people.”

YORKSHIRE, UK—Phillip Davies, Member of Parliament (MP) of Shipley, has criticized the Government for the extension of an existing exemption for Sikhs from the wearing of safety helmets in Northern Ireland.

The Tory MP criticized the amendment to the Deregulation Bill as “troubling” and “offensive” to many people on the grounds of creating distinctions between citizens in the face of the law. The cornerstone of British society, he argued, is the equality of all people in the face of the law. Mr Davies told the Commons that,

“Either people should have to wear helmets for safety reasons or they should not. If a Sikh can give up their decision to wear a safety helmet on religious grounds, why cannot other workers decide not to wear them on grounds that they choose for themselves? Why should we have different laws for different people in this country? Many people find that troubling and offensive.”

In response, Solicitor-General Oliver Heald argued for the rightful exemption of Sikhs from the Bill by emphasizing the unique importance of the turban for Sikhs. He stressed the important religious and historical significance of the turban, making it a distinctively Sikh religious tenet which allows for the deserved special circumstances.

In arguing for the freedom for Sikhs to practice the central tenets of the religion, Mr Heald acknowledged the “great contribution” Sikhs make in Britain. 

The Sikh turban, or dastaar, although worn predominantly by Sikh men, is an important religious tenet for both Sikh men and women. Rooted in historical and religious significance and representative of core Sikh values, the turban is seen by many Sikhs to be a very significant and inseparable part of Sikh identity. 

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