Egypt’s Islamists suggest shaving beards to avoid detection, arrests

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Egypt’s Brotherhood- linked cleric Safwat el-Hegazy had his “beard shaved and hair dyed as a disguise,” when he was arrested this week, according to a local media report. This has prompted analysts to believe that Islamists are adopting a fatwa (religious edict) legalizing the shaving of one’s beard to avoid standing out as Mursi supporters during demonstrations.

It seems el-Hegazy adopted the fatwa set by Dr. Mouahmmad Abdulmaksoud, a hardliner cleric, who legalized shaving one’s beard “in order to bluff the army and the police and arrive safely at pro-Mursi demonstrations.”

Sporting a beard is seen as a marker of Muslim identity for some male followers of Islam and some clerics see the act of beard shaving as unacceptable.

Sheikh Abu Ishaak al-Huwainy, a member of the cleric’s advisory council, was quoted condemning the act by his son who relayed the statement on a social media website.

“It is wrong to shave the beard and it shouldn’t be done as this is breaking a rule set by the prophet, and this will pave the way to considering wearing a beard as a ground for accusation, and will expose bearded men to [more] pressure.”

The debate over beard shaving was raised in October 2012 when dozens of Egyptian policemen, who had been suspended from work in February for growing long beards, protested outside the Interior Ministry and called on the now-ousted President Mohammed Mursi to secure their reinstatement.

The policemen sought to challenge the de-facto rule that stopped members of the security forces from growing beards under President Hosni Mubarak.

In January, a fatwa was issued by Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa that growing a beard, or shaving it off, are both unrelated to Sharia (Islamic law).

The fatwa quotes the late prominent Egyptian religious scholar and Islamic theologian Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltout as saying everything relating to clothing and physical appearance, including beards and shaving, “is a habit that should be adopted according to one’s living environment.”

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