The Egyptian Bearded Police (STONEGATE INSTITUTE) by Anna Mahjar-Barducci 02/24/12)
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The Prophet Mohamed and his companions led the "best armies in the
world while being bearded." The idea is to occupy visually with
beards the Parliament, the streets, public institutions -- but first
the police corps.
"I Am a Bearded Police Officer" is the name of the new coalition
established by the group of Egyptian police officers who asked the
Ministry of Interior to grow beards to follow in the footsteps of the
The Saudi-owned media outlet Al-Arabiya reported that in Egypt the
request immediately stirred much controversy over "the right to a
religious appearance in the workplace." The Interior Minister Mohamed
Ibrahim immediately refused the request, fearing that beards could
become a symbol of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the
Salafists, as well as a symbol of opposition to ruling Egyptian Army.
The Minister ordered the policemen to shave their beards while on
duty. "Police officers are required to maintain a presentable
appearance like all those working in sectors related to security,"
the Minister stated.
The group of officers, however, decided to disobey, and ignored the
Minister´s order. Egypt Independent mentions that the "free the
beards campaign" became a public opinion issue and will hence
soon "blow up in the Interior Minister´s face." As reported by the
media outlet BikyaMasr, during a recent Minister´s trip to Assiut, he
was confronted by "controversial calls for officers to be free to let
their beards grow following the Islamic tradition." The Islamist
movement, Gama´a Islamiya in Assiut, issued a statement condemning
the minister and stating that the beard is at the core of the Islamic
To find more support, the "Bearded Policemen" group opened a public
page on the social networking website, Facebook. Al-Arabiya reports
the Captain Hani al-Shakeri, the official spokesman of "I Am a
Bearded Police Officer," stated on Facebook that he will not change
his position and will not shave. "I know that many Egyptians are keen
to see police officers in Egypt grow their beards and follow the
example of their prophet," said the captain, adding that by growing
his beard, "at last I get to regain my humanity which I had lost
during the oppressive regime." Another member of the group, Walid
Hosni, wrote on Facebook that prohibiting policemen from growing
beards would violate police regulations.
The Interior Minister replied to the disobeying officers that a beard
is only a non-binding religious tradition, adding that he will be
firm with officers who violate police regulations. "Police laws
oblige all policemen to be well-groomed and to shave their beards and
hair," he said, noting that these regulations are mentioned in all
policemen´s course books. Support for the Minister also came from
some scholars at Al-Azhar, the world´s leading institution of Sunni
Islam. Al-Arabiya reports that the former head of Al-Azhar´s
Religious Edicts Committee, Sheikh Abdel Hamid Al-Atrash, commented
that "growing a beard is preferable but it is not obligatory…..It is
important that they maintain the appearance that goes with the status
of the police, even if this would make them go against a preferred
practice in Islam."
Other Al-Azhar scholars think a compromise could be found. Mohamed al-
Berri, former head of al-Azhar´s Scholars Union, stated that refusing
to grant police officers the right to grow their beards reveals
the "persistence of the same pre-revolution mentality." "Why is it a
problem if police officers or others grow their beards so long as
this does not affect their performance?" Al-Arabiya reported him as
saying, adding, however, that the "Egyptian officers should focus
first on regaining the lost trust between the police and the people,
then think about their right to maintain the appearance they want."
The officers are, nevertheless, not willing to give up their demands.
The group, claiming that to grow beards is their "constitutional and
legitimate right," says the Interior Minister is not a legislator and
his words are not binding. In the meantime, one captain has been
suspended, and the Minister is apparently going to take more
disciplinary action against officers who insist on growing their
The media outlet BikyaMasr reports that the officers could even end
up in court. Al-Arabiya also reports that senior police officers have
warned the Minister of a possible confrontation with Muslim-
parliament -- where Islamists hold nearly 75 percent of the seats, a
quarter of which are Salafist -- in case the "disgruntled officers
decide to take the matter to legislators."
Egypt Independent reports that, during an interview, the spokesman
for the Salafis´ Al-Nour Party, Nader Bakar, said that it is
unacceptable that some people are demanding that bearded policemen be
reprimanded. Bakar added that the Prophet Mohamed and his companions
led the "best armies of the world while being bearded." He then said
that he would "support them legally if they choose to file a lawsuit
to defend their right to keep their beards." Salafist groups are,
however, not all united in their support to the "bearded policemen".
As BikyaMasr noticed, the Salafist Front spokesman Khaled Said,
pointing out that the controversy "could harm the relationship
between the Islamists and the ministry of interior," wrote on
Facebook that he does not approve of the idea. The position of the
Muslim Brotherhood is not clear.
Many Egyptians, however, criticized the policemen´s initiative,
assessing that in a time of political and economic crisis "growing
beards" is not a priority. Egypt Independent reported, for example,
that while these policemen is fighting for growing their beards, the
country is collapsing and sit-ins and demonstrations to protest the
continuation of the propane tank crisis in many different
governorates in Egypt are increasing.
The Interior Minister now wants to put an end to the controversy of
the "bearded policemen." For him, it is not a matter a resetting
priorities. He is just concerned that if the bearded policemen win
this battle, other policemen might start disobeying orders from the
Army, which still keeps Egypt under a tight dictatorship.
If the bearded policemen will win, however, the beard will become a
symbol of protest and of support for the Islamists. The plan is to
occupy visually with beards the Parliament, the streets, public
institution -- but first the police corps.
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