Malik Ameer Muhammad Afridi has become a celebrity in his own right owing to his 30-inch long moustache curling up to his forehead which he proudly displays along the streets of Peshawar.
Aside from the usual looks of amusement, Afridi’s gangling moustache managed to draw the attention of members of militant group Lashkar-e-Islami.
The iconoclastic facial hair caused him to abandon his hometown of Bara in Khyber Agency after the militants declared it ‘un-Islamic’.
“It was the summer of 2008, when members of the LeI arrested me and took me to a religious scholar who declared the moustache un-Islamic and ordered it to be shaved,” he said.
The pride of Afridi’s life was shaved at gunpoint. Refusing to be cowed by the militants’ threats, however, he decided to move to Peshawar so that his moustache may thrive unfettered.
Afridi said he has not been able to visit his hometown for four years owing to the threat of ‘anti-moustache’ militants. “I left my dear homeland, my friends and relatives and prepared to sacrifice all that but will not compromise my moustache,” he said.
Afridi has been living in Peshawar after braving ‘anti-moustache’ hardliners in Khyber Agency.
Now, he proudly displays his handle-bar moustache in the relatively secure environs of the provincial capital. The 47-year-old runs an electronics business in Deen Plaza and says, “My moustache style is unique. It has made my tribesmen proud as no one in Pakistan has such a moustache.”
Afridi also said his moustache had gained him respect, adding that people even give him their turn while standing in queues outside banks and other places.
Afridi’s moustache-care regime is elaborate. Spending 30 minutes grooming himself every day, he uses oil extracts of almond and coconut to nourish the hair. He then fashions the handlebar whiskers into crescent-like curls using a German-made gel.
However, his gangling whiskers did not amuse his wife. She urged him to get rid of it since he had run afoul of the militants.
Despite his wife’s protestations, Afridi said he would only surrender his moustache – over his dead body.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.