Dar al-Ifta urges ‘bearded police’ to respect ministry rules

Police officers who want to grow their beards should respect Interior Ministry rules about their appearance, Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, the supreme Islamic body responsible for issuing religious decrees, said Wednesday.

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

A Facebook page called “I am a bearded policeman,” whose administrators said they were police officers, called for allowing officers to grow their beards in line with Islamic tradition.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim during a tour of Upper Egypt said having a beard is a non-binding religious tradition and that the ministry will be firm with officers who break the rules. Those campaigning for the right to grow beards rejected the remarks.

Dar al-Ifta said Islamic scholars have long differed on the necessity of growing a beard, with one side describing it as one of Prophet Mohamed’s traditions and the other labeling it a devotional act.

The religious body voiced frustration with the public preoccupation over the current controversy. Its statement urged the ministry to review its rules and reach compromises to avoid further disputes.

The campaign is another example of the increasing popularity of religious trends in Egypt since the outbreak of the January 2011 revolution.

A debate over the country's political and social orientations continues amid Islamists’ domination of the country’s lower house of Parliament, the People’s Assembly, and their predicted victory in elections for the upper house, the Shura Council, which will end tomorrow.

Secular and liberal groups fear Islamists will seek an Islamic constitution in light of their political influence and several calls by many figures to apply Sharia, or Islamic law.

Islamists hope to preserve the country’s Islamic identity in face of secular and liberal demands for a civil state that separates religion from government.

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