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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Barbers down razors in Pakistan

By Haroon Rashid
BBC correspondent in Peshawar

Barbers in a mountainous Pakistani town have banded together to ban the shaving of beards.

Tribal chief from Banna
A Pashtun chieftain: Beards are the norm for those who can grow them

Travellers to scenic Bisham who ask for a refreshing shave will now find all 17 of the town's barbers refuse to use the razor.

Signs freshly installed in the town's barber shops tell customers not to ask for any existing beards or stubble to be removed.

The decision was taken after a committee of barbers decided it was un-Islamic to shave beards.

According to the barbers' ruling, anyone violating the ban will face a fine of 20,000 rupees, or around $350, and the closure of his business.

Islamic sentiment runs high in the town, which is in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, a belt of land bordering Afghanistan and ruled by Pashtun tribes.

Bisham is a stronghold of militant group Tehrik Nifaze Shariat Mohammadi, which was banned by President Musharraf in February 2002.

Tainted earnings

The ban on shaving beards is not expected to affect the locals in a town where almost all men can boast bushy facial hair.

But Bisham has also been a popular stopping-point for tourists from Pakistan's cities, who come seeking the mountain air.

Politicians
Politicians at prayer: Beards are seen as a sign of devoutness

The clean-shaven amongst them may now have trouble maintaining a stubble-free appearance, according to Jehanzada, a local man.

Sher Ali of the Bisham Barbers' Association says the ban is the result of "an ongoing debate about our work".

"There were concerns that our earnings from shaving beards were un-Islamic and tainted - so we have decided to stop."

The town's barbers will continue to trim men's hair, massage scalps and groom those who use the public baths.

They are reportedly considering a further ban on "Western-style" haircuts.

The puritanical former Taleban movement in neighbouring Afghanistan also banned men from shaving beards and sporting Westernised haircuts.

The fall of the Taleban in 2001 was followed by a barber shop boom in the Afghan capital, Kabul, as thousands of men flocked to be shorn of their regulation facial hair.




SEE ALSO:
Islamists row over beardless nominee
23 Oct 02  |  South Asia
No bar on handlebar moustaches
08 Feb 02  |  South Asia
Bearded boxers banned
20 Oct 98  |  South Asia



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