The Supreme Court’s stay of the dismissal order passed by a school in Madhya Pradesh against a student for sporting a beard (Sept. 12) is welcome. Sporting a beard is a matter of personal preference. Why should some narrow-minded elements make an issue of it, dividing society along communal lines in the process?
The court order permitting Mohammed Salim, sacked by the Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School for sporting a beard, to continue is retrograde in nature. What if a student argues tomorrow that trousers and shirts are against his religious code and insists on wearing a traditional attire? Why can’t Salim join a school which permits him to sport a beard? Why should he insist on having the cake and eating it too? He wants to pursue education in a good school but is not ready to adhere to its rules. Religion is a matter of personal choice. A school is no place to exhibit it. As for Salim’s contention that sporting a beard is an indispensable part of Islam, are Muslims without beards not Islamic?
If growing a beard is an indispensable part of Islam, why does a vast majority of Muslims not sport beards? In the Army and the Air Force, only Sikhs are permitted to grow beards. No Muslim has ever demanded permission to do so in the name of religion. Even in the Navy, where wearing a beard is allowed, restrictions are imposed and they have been upheld by courts. An officer or sailor (other than a Sikh wearing a beard at the time of joining) wishing to grow a beard is, in fact, required to take the permission of his commanding officer to “discontinue shaving.”
Cdr Arun Visvanathan (retd.),