Order for Indian Muslim police officers to shave off beard withdrawn amid backlash

As per an order on Thursday, 9 Muslim police officers were said to shave off their beard so they would not only act unbiased but 'look unbiased' too

As per order of Alwar's Superintendent of Police, nine Muslim police officers were told to shave off their beard, so that they would not only work in an unbiased manner but 'look unbiased' too. Though not compulsory but keeping a beard is a distinctive aspect of a Muslim man's identity.

Thursday's order

Alwar is a district in the Indian state of Rajasthan, some 150 km west of New Delhi. Though 32 police personnel were allowed to keep their beard, but a Thursday order by the district's Superintendent of Police (SP) Anil Paris Deshmukh, ordered nine of the policemen to shave off their beard, Times of India reported.

While citing the reason, the SP said, "Policemen should not only work in an unbiased manner but they should also look unbiased". He referred to the provision of the state government that allows Head of the Department (HoD) to permit policemen to keep beards.

"Under the provision, 32 policemen were given permission. The permission for nine policemen has been cancelled while for the rest of them it stands unchanged," he added.

The reason why among the 32 Muslim policemen, 23 were allowed to keep their beard and 9 told to shave it off, is not clear. Though, Deshmukh had said the decision can be reconsidered and those dissatisfied with it can approach the department.

Order withdrawn

India's 70th Independence Day
9 Indian policemen Muslim police officers were told to shave off their beard Reuters

The SP gave the order on Thursday, only to withdraw it in less than a day. The controversial order was withdrawn after it garnered enough criticism and backlash. Sher Mohammad, leader of a Muslim organization in the Alwar district said, "It was a complete erroneous instruction. The nine cops had prior permission to sport a beard. It is deplorable that Alwar SP took such a decision not taking into account a person's religious sentiments".

One of the nine constables told Times of India, "The SP's orders are final and have to be adhered with. If he had not decided to revoke the permission, I would have shaved off my beard".

On Friday, while withdrawing the order, he said that, "it was an administrative order which has been withdrawn after representation from the aggrieved policemen. The permission to sport a beard has been given", he said.