The Indian Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that air force personnel cannot sport beards.
The ruling came after a Muslim man, Ansari Aftab Ahmed, moved the court following his dismissal from service for growing a beard. Unless sporting a beard constitutes an integral part of a religion, as with the Sikhs, no men of the force can be allowed to sport one, the top court said.
Ahmed had contended that it was his fundamental right to sport a beard, saying Sikhs were also allowed to wear long hair, turbans and beards in accordance with their faith. Ahmed was fired from the force in 2008 after refusing to do away with his beard and subsequently filed a plea before the apex court.
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"It cannot be said that Muslim religion prohibits the cutting of hair or shaving of the face of its member,” the Indian Air Force stated. The Indian Defence Ministry's policy on “hair, beard and wearing turbans,” states “only those Muslim personnel, who have had beard and moustache at the time of commissioning prior to Jan 1, 2002, would be allowed to keep these.” Muslims who have grown beards after joining the service “should shave off the beard,” it maintains.
Ahmed's case is not without precedent. In 2008, IAF Corporal Muhammad Zubair and Muhammad Fasi of Maharashtra Police also moved the court on similar complaints.
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The Sikhs are the only exception to the rule. Others are only allowed to keep whiskers and moustaches -- that too of moderate length.
India is predicted to be home to the world's largest Muslim population by 2050.
This article originally appeared on RT.
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