A close shave: Egypt's hairy policemen return to the force
An Egyptian court Wednesday ordered the Interior Ministry to reinstate policemen suspended from duty for growing a beard, a ruling that reverses a long-maintained taboo in the country’s police institution.
The Supreme Administrative Court in Cairo turned down appeals by the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police in Egypt, against verdicts by lower courts giving policemen the right to sport a beard while still in the service.
More than 100 policemen have held a series of protests in recent months outside the Interior Ministry headquarters in Cairo after they were suspended from work for wearing a beard.
The protesters have apparently been emboldened by Islamists’ rise to power in Egypt after a popular revolt toppled Hosni Mubarak two years ago. Their lawyers argued that sporting a beard is a matter of personal freedom, which does not affect their performance. Upon hearing Wednesday’s ruling, the policemen, who attended the session, erupted in rejoicing, shouting: “Allah Akbar” The ministry had previously said that allowing policemen to wear a beard violates the regulations, which require strictness and observing a certain appearance.
Police and army personnel in Egypt have for long decades been barred from growing beards. Egypt’s Islamic authorities have said in a fatwa or a religious edict that wearing a beard is not obligatory in Islam. However, after Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected Islamist president in June last year, the secular opposition has repeatedly accused his Muslim Brotherhood group of seeking to Islamise the country.
By Ramadan Al Sherbini
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