Egypt’s police lose court battle to keep their beards
A ruling that allowed policemen with beards to work in Egypt was suspended by an Egyptian court, a judicial source said on Thursday, ending a six-year legal battle that triggered a debate between personal freedoms and state security.
Wednesday's decision came after a lawyer appealed against a ruling to allow them to return to work and demanded the interior ministry apply regulations that prevent bearded officers from serving.
"The beard in Arab countries is considered religious, it isn't just something normal," lawyer Mohammed Hamed Salem told AFP.
"How do you feel when you cross a checkpoint run by bearded officers," he asked.
The case dates back to 2012 when bearded police demonstrated under Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, demanding the officers be allowed to serve.
After Morsi's ouster in 2014, the interior ministry dismissed 10 policemen because of their beards.
In July, police regulations were again called into question and bearded officers were officially allowed to return to their beats.
“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,” the attorney who brought the case before the Urgent Matters Court said.
Salem said he immediately filed an appeal over "fears these police officers are Islamists".
Egypt's former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa in 2013 confirming facial hair is a personal choice, not a mandatory Islamic duty, but some sectors of the Egyptian state have associated beards with political Islamism.
Agencies contributed to this report.