No restriction on Muslim beard: Defence Minister tells Armed Forces

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

New Delhi: Union Defence Minister A K Antony has instructed the three Armed Forces of the country – Army, Navy and Air Force – that no action should be taken against a Muslim jawan or officer if he sports beard.

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He told a delegation of All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat (Maulana Salim Qasmi group) that the instruction has been issued to the Armed Forces particularly to the Air Force, and they have been asked to freeze any action if they have taken against any Muslim staff for sporting beard, says a UNI report.

The Defence Minister told the delegation that ban on beard in the Air Force was imposed during the BJP-led NDA regime. When his government came to the issue it began taking actions on it. A case against the IAF ban on beard is in the Supreme Court.

IAF personnel Mohammad Zubair had filed a petition in the apex court challenging the IAF’s policy not to allow Muslim recruits to sport beard. In an affidavit in response to the petition, the IAF had told the court: “All Muslims do not carry beard. The practice of growing and keeping beard is optional and sporting a beard is not universally recognised in the religion of Islam. Therefore, it cannot be said that Muslim religion prohibits the cutting of hair or shaving of the face of its member.”

But only last week the IAF told the Supreme Court that it was having a fresh look at the issue. The 1.3 lakh-strong force informed the court of its changed mind. Appearing for the government, additional solicitor general Indira Jaising told a Bench comprising Justices D K Jain and H L Dattu on July 20 that the government was taking a fresh look at the issue.

So far the force had defended its order prohibiting Muslims from sporting beard, saying the practice not universally recognised in Islam.

The new move of the government is seen as a major positive impact of the Katju apology on Muslim beard issue.

A couple of weeks ago Supreme Court Judge Justice Markandya Katju had apologised for his Talibanization remark on Muslim beard and withdrew his order upholding the Madhya Pradesh High Court order which had justified a school ruling wheryby a Muslim student was not allowed to come to school in beard.

Katju’s apology was the result of rigorous and nationwide protest by Muslim leaders and organziations condemning the observation of the judge that allowing Muslim students to sport beard would lead to Talibanization of the country. Renowned spiritual leader and Sajjada Nasheen of Khanqah Munger, Maulana Muhammad Wali Rahmani had led the protest from front. He met Union Law Minister and Prime Minister apprising them of the hurt feelings of the Muslims on the judge’s observation, and urging them to revoke the order.

The Mushawarat delegation meeting the Defence Minister included its vice president Maulana Ahmed Ali Qasmi, general secretary Maulana Ameeduzzaman Keranwi, Kamal Farooqui, Muhammad Adeeb, Rahat Mahmood Chaudhry and others.