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Egypt’s police lose court battle to keep their beards

  • 14 September 2018
  • Author: QT01
  • Number of views: 1497
Egypt’s police lose court battle to keep their beards
Cairo judges ended six years of legal wrangling over a 2012 police ban on facial hair for officers, ruling against the right of individual officers to sport long beards.

The decision confirmed the government’s interest in maintaining the police force as a “secular organisational entity”.

In Egypt, an untrimmed beard on a man’s cheeks and chin with the upper lip clean-shaven is popularly understood as a signifier of Salafi religious beliefs or political allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Several hundred police officers started growing wilder beards when enforcement of the ban loosened during the one-year presidency of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, which lasted from June 2012 to July 2013. The army, then headed by Egypt’s current leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi, removed Morsi from power after massive protests against his divisive rule.

This week’s ruling by the Court of Urgent matters overturned a July 1 finding by the lower court allowing bearded officers to rejoin the force if they trimmed their facial hair in compliance with Interior Ministry regulations.

In their July ruling, administrative court judges said they were basing their decision to reinstate officers solely on the grounds of employment law.

“The beards may show affiliation with banned political and terrorist organizations,” wrote Judge Mohamed Maher Abul-Enein. “But the government's filing does not show, any act or statement that proves this, and it would have been more useful to the court for the Ministry of the Interior to reveal them.”

But the court ruled that the need to abide by regulations was an overriding state interest holding greater weight than personal freedom or religious preferences.

“The return of bearded officers to the employment by Ministry of the Interior violated the constitution’s definition of Egypt as a civil state and constituted a danger to Egyptian society and these men are a threat to national unity and social peace,” said Mohammed Hamid Salem, the attorney who brought the case before the Urgent Matters Court.

“Some of these officers have religious affiliations that led them to participate in the execution of terrorist acts.”

A July verdict by a Cairo military court is cited to validate Salem’s allegations that the ranks of the bearded policemen include terrorist elements.
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