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Egypt court upholds police officers' right to have beards

An Egyptian court has upheld the right of police officers to wear beards, siding with several men who were fired for contravening the police force's dress code, according to the Egypt Independent.

The verdict, issued by Vice President of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court, Mohamed Maher Abu Al-Enein, suspends a previous decree issued from Egypt's Interior Ministry, which states that officers are to be fired if they keep their beards.

The court had previously issued the same verdict over the 2013 case when the police force attempted to retire several officers for growing beards and rejected the interior ministry's attempt to transfer officers to the reserves, stressing that such a move was not legal. The ministry appealed against the decision, prompting their most recent loss in court.

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Since the ascendance of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in the 2013 coup that ousted democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi, the government has reinstated a ban on those in several government positions from sporting beards.

Associated with conservative Islam and support of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, the government has cracked down on those growing beards, often identifying it as a sign of "extremism". In 2013, Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued an Islamic ruling claiming that having a beard had no Islamic significance, in an attempt to discourage Muslim men from opting to wear one as a symbol of their faith.

An unofficial policy in Egypt during the Mubarak era saw thousands of men discriminated in positions at work and profiled at university for attempting to grow beards. After the 2011 revolution, many rejoiced at the new found freedom to practice their religion.

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Although beards are once again prohibited under the presidency of Al-Sisi, protests against the ban have increased, particularly among police officers and other government employees. In 2013, policemen also staged an open-ended sit-in in front of the interior ministry to demand their right to sport a beard while on duty.

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