Mogadishu, Somalia — Men in the Somali capital Mogadishu, have been given 30 days to grow beard. The order was issued by Moalim Hashi Mohamed Farah, the Governor in the capital. It takes effect on July 20.
Moalim Hashi is a member of Hizbu Islam, led by Sheikh Dahir Aweys, one of the Islamist groups opposing the Transitional Federal Government.
Talking to the local media via teleconference late on Sunday, Moalim Hashi stated that Somali women in the capital had already complied with the order of using the Hijab (heavy dress covering from head to toe). He added that it is time from men to comply with Islamic manners.
The clergyman ordered all men of adult age to grow beard and to trim moustaches.
He emphasized that his Islamic authority was aware of some men actually shaving the beards and even growing the moustaches, which is the opposite of the code the order demands.
"As from 20th of July, we are hereby ordering all men to obey the instructions of trimming the moustaches and growing the beards," said Moalim Hashi. "Short of complying with the instructions will attract punishment in accordance with the Sharia (Islamic) laws)," he added.
The order stressed that men shaving beards is effectively prohibited. "Time to cut beard off is over," remarked the governor.
Somali Islamist groups, namely Al-Shabaab and Hizbu Islam, have introduced several restrictions including, among others, ban on school bells, women wearing bras, movie houses, music, folk dances and football, particularly watching the World Cup currently taking place in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Moalim Hashi permitted Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), a media house in Mogadishu, to air its programmes.
It had been out of operations for the last 66 days because GBC shared frequency with a Nairobi based Bar Kulan Radio, an independent broadcaster that refused to stop playing music.
"Now that GBC is no longer sharing frequency with the 'devilish' Bar Kulan Radio, it can broadcast its programmes," Moalim Hashi.
On April 3, Hizbu Islam ordered all Mogadishu Radio and TVs to stop playing music and lyrics. The broadcasters complied, except Mogadishu Radio, a government-run media and Bar Kulan, a broadcaster that transmits its programmes from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya.
Moalim Hashi promised to take action against the defiant Bar Kulan Radio when Islamists get to Nairobi.
The latest edict on beards by Hizbu Islam follows a similar order issued late last year by Al-Shabaab. The two groups control most of Somalia. "Men are ordered to grow their beards and trim their moustaches and anyone found violating this law will face the consequences," the group said. This can include flogging.
"To grow one's beard is a moral teaching left by our Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, so it is a duty to keep this religious practice alive and punish men who shave their beards and grow their moustaches."
Mogadishu's male population appeared resigned to the new law, arguing that avoiding the wrath of the country's hardliners was worth the time and effort of a little extra facial grooming.
"The new law will affect almost every household in Mogadishu because most men don't grow beards here," said Mr Hasan Muse, a clean-shaven Mogadishu resident.
"Personally, I don't have a problem growing a beard, it's just that you actually need more time to look after a proper beard than to simply shave," he argued.
Mr Sabriye Mohamed, for his part, said he would continue to choose his own facial hair style because he lived in one of the few neighbourhoods still controlled by the Western-backed transitional federal government.
"I have heard the news about the law ordering men in Mogadishu to grow beards but it will have no impact on me because I live in the government-controlled area," he said.
Such rules are already being implemented in some parts of the city and other regions of Somalia by Al-Shabaab which has a dedicated religious police branch known as "Jaysh al-Hisbah" (Army of morality).
Units from the movement's "social mobilisation brigades" can often be seen criss-crossing busy areas on pick-up trucks and blaring instructions through loudspeakers to join the jihad and respect a pure Islamic clothing style.