Nour Party calls for interior minister to be questioned over police beards

The Salafi-led Nour Party called on Friday for a hearing with the Interior Minister on the subject of legislation forbidding policeman from growing beards.

Nader Bakar, spokesman of the Nour Party, said the party demands questioning of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in front of the People's Assembly on whether there is a law that prohibits policemen from keeping their beards long, a religious practice of observant Muslims.

Bakar described Ibrahim’s decision to suspend and punish bearded policemen as "arbitrary."

The announcement is the latest development in a debate on the right of policemen to leave their faces unshaven, after a group from within police ranks claimed that they were being oppressed by the Interior Ministry’s policies. A Facebook page called “I am a bearded policeman,” whose administrators said they were police officers, calls for allowing officers to grow their beards in line with Islamic tradition.

The ministry has announced it will take firm measures against those who violate the customary rules of the police service. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim during a tour of Upper Egypt on Monday said having a beard is a non-binding religious tradition and the ministry was doing nothing against the religion in maintaining its regulations.

At least one officer has so far been suspended for not being clean-shaven.

Bakar, in a meeting at the Smouha sports club in Alexandria Friday, said that leaving the beard long is a personal right, and is a 'sunnah' (a practice of Prophet Mohamed), state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Bakar also said the party supported policemen who wanted to remain unshaven.

"There are many western countries that allow the police to leave their beards long like Britain, so what about Egypt?" he said.

The Interior Minister allows officers to smoke cigarettes, commit [forbidden acts] and kill demonstrators, Bakar said, but has now decided to punish them, “just because they tried to follow the Prophet, peace be upon him.”

On Wednesday, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, the supreme Islamic body responsible for issuing religious decrees, urged the protesting police officers to respect Interior Ministry rules about their appearance.

The Dar al-Ifta statement said that respecting the rules is not wrong as long as they don’t clash with Islamic teachings.

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