A.P. minorities panel argues Muslim students’ case

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:36 pm IST

Published - October 25, 2015 02:17 am IST - HYDERABAD:

Taking cognisance of complaints about Muslim students being barred from National Cadet Corps for >sporting a beard , the AP State Minorities Commission has asked the Defence Ministry to make the exemption granted to the Sikh community applicable to Muslims too.

In a communication to the Ministry, the panel has noted that “India being a mosaic of different ideologies, fabric, diverse religions, cultures and secular faith, any attempt at transgressing into the rights of the Muslims, in their observance of ‘Quoranic injunctions’ shall be deemed as infringing into their right of freedom and liberty.”

Recommending examination and reconsideration of the matter in incisive detail and passing of necessary orders, the commission advised “equal rights of the religious practices to signify not only equality before law, but also equal opportunities to all.”

Citing an observation by Supreme Court that “…the freedom of the religion in our Indian Constitution is not confined to religious beliefs only, but it also extends to religious practices….”, the order signed by chairman Abid Rasool Khan said Muslims are obligated to grow beard as per ‘Sunnath’.

Granting exemption to Sikhs and denying it to Muslims is a clear case of discrimination, it said.

In August, the panel had sought explanation from Director General of NCC, about a circular issued two years ago forbidding cadets other than Sikhs from growing beard. The notices were issued in relation to two separate complaints, one filed by the father of a student from Anwar-ul-Uloom college who was turned away by the NCC, and the other by an NGO named ‘Help Hyderabad.’

NCC representatives, who attended the hearing, cited Defence regulations which prohibited facial hair, and said they were applicable to NCC too.

To support their claims, they produced three judgments pronounced by different courts in this regard, including one by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana about Air Force personnel, another by the Kerala High Court about police, and the third by the Karnataka High Court with regard to NCC cadets. The last one ended in compromise while the first two judgements dismissed the petitions, saying beard was not mandatory requirement as per Islam.

‘Beard in Defence’

An elaborate judgement by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in 2008, presented by NCC before State Commission for Minorities, cites Defence rules for the Air Force which had been changed time and again since 1980. Before 1980, there was no regulation pertaining to facial hair.

Modified policy Policies announced in 1980 and 1982 exempted Muslims from the rule of mandatory clean shave, but prescribed length of beard less than a fist. Subsequent policy in 1999 permitted beard without permission if the person in question sported it at the time of joining the service, but mandated approval by Commanding Officer if he chose to grow it after joining service. Interestingly, all these policies prohibited use of artificial aids for keeping the beard tidy, as they are forbidden by Islam!

The modified policy of 2003 allowed beard, only if the person had had it at the time of enrolment before January 1, 2002. Going a step further, the policy made moustache mandatory for such Muslim personnel wishing to keep the beard. Moustache would be part of the beard, it said, which clearly went against Hadith which requires a Muslim to keep the beard and trim the moustache.

All recruits after the date were to shave their faces clean of hair. The rules were promulgated reportedly for facial identity of the personnel. Sikh personnel, however, have been steadily exempted.

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