PIA Ban on Beards: Leave My Facial Hair Alone!

Posted on February 22, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Society, Travel
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Adil Najam

According to a news item in The News, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is going to implement a ban on growing beards – except for French beards – on all male cabin crew:

In a recent notification, PIA administration has announced to have reviewed its policy regarding beards, and said now male cabin crew could not grow beards and they could only have French-cut beards.

Not surprisingly, religious scholars and ulema condemned PIA for this, calling the ban a violation of constitutional and fundamental human rights. Whether this is or is not the most important constitutional violation of our age, the ulema are, in fact, right.

Unless there is a sound technical reason for it (and there seems not to be), forcing someone to take off their beard is deserving of condemnation as much as forcing someone to grow a beard. Especially if either of the act is ideologically motivated; no matter what the ideology. Of course, forcing someone to grow a beard on threat of death or violence is particularly disturbing. But, frankly, a threat to one’s livelihood is also reprehensible.

Right now, I myself do not have a beard. And that is not an ideological statement one way or the other. But my own position remains unchanged from October 2006 when I had commented on facial hair for cricketers:

By way of disclosure I should add that I occasionally sprout facial hair of my own but am mostly clean-shaven. But as a deep and committed adherent of people’s right of expression (how can a blogger not be that!) I stand committed to defend people’s right to facial hair, whether they are grown for stylistic elegance or religious expression.

More pertinent was the June 2006 decision by Habib Bank to ban shalwar kameez and facial hair (by the way, can someone please confirm if that policy was ever implemented). In that case the issue had focused more on the wearing of shalwar kameez to work and the argument that this somehow made the person look less “trustworthy” and less “presentable.” Facial hair were also targeted for the same reason. On the issue of beards, trustworthiness and presentability, my argument was rather simple:

Dr. Abdus Salam? Abdul Sattar Edhi? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan?
Presentable? You bet.
Trustworthy? More than any banker I ever met.

As a rather frequent traveler on PIA – in fact, I read this news item on a PIA plane retruning from Karachi to Islamabad, and one of the cabin staff was supporting a huge beard – I too have noticed that the number of crew members with facial hair, especially large beards, has increased dramatically over the years. But that is a factor of what has been happening in society. PIA has plenty of big problems to deal with, and this seems to be the least of them.

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At least in my experience, the quality of service one gets is not at all dependent on the amount of facial hair. Maybe the management should focus on that before it starts following the example of the Swat Taliban in judging people by the length of their facial hair (or not)!

90 responses to “PIA Ban on Beards: Leave My Facial Hair Alone!”

  1. UllulAmar says:

    Beardless in Islam says:
    March 5th, 2009 11:22 am

    This is a stupid move by PIA.

    I don

  2. Beardless in Islam says:

    This is a stupid move by PIA.

    I don’t think God is going to gauge people on how much hair they have on their face (otherwise heaven would be full of bears) and certainl business does not care either.

    Given people good service and you will have a good company, beard or no beard.
    Be a decent human being and God will be happy with you, beard or no beard.

    And if you can’t give good service or be a good person then all the hair on your face will do you no good. It will only give you ticks and an itch!

  3. asfi says:

    Corrected comments: Dear all, this is the problem of

  4. Wahab says:

    Bad move by PIA. PIA’s real problems are very different and much more deep. It should focus on that.

  5. Asim says:


    Please correct me if I am wrong. My understanding of what you are saying is that some malang from some sufi’s shirine or some mullah who moves back and forth reciting Quran half the day and most likely not understanding a word or come up with its own meaning that is not acceptable to majority of the society he/she lives is equal and just as important as some engineer who builds buildings, bridges etc or a surgeon who went through years of hardship to be where he is now and help many others while earning decent living?

    Going back to the original topic, I firmly believe that everyone should do their job honestly and follow current fashions/trends to look their best specially when they are in a position to represent their organization/country.

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