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. Sair says:


    I know how important GDP is in measuring country’s ‘economic growth’. My question was that since when did ones contribution to GDP becomes a/the factor in weighing person’s worth in a society. Like if you do volunteer work, that does not involve any economic transaction, then technically you are not contributing anything to the GDP……. Would you call that person useless because he is not contributing anything to the GDP?

  2. Asim says:


    I am sorry but I am not going to explain how important GDP is to a country, its respect, its people and and its future generation, but very quickly, think about and compare the progress of Japan, Germany, U.S.A., India, China to countries like Haiti, Maldives, Zimbabwe, Nepal or just about any muslim country, except Malaysia, Dubai, Qatar and couple others, . To better understand the importance of GDP, please search for something like GDP 101 in Google.

  3. Sair says:

    I would like to know from when exactly did “contribution to GDP” has become a/the factor to judge people? I wonder why people on the one hand talk about equality and on the other weight or worth people based on their contributions.

    The highest contributors to the GDP would be those large multinational/local business groups, right? but I think you have never had a chance to read on them, how unethical they are, what good they bring to any society?

  4. adeel says:

    Right on… What DO the madarsas and their graduates contribute to our GDP?

    You are very true about creating a forward looking, modern blend of religion, science and modern education.

    If our bearded forefathers could invent algebra 600 years ago and were able to co-exist peacefully with non-muslims (e.g., in Moorish Spain), no reason why we have to resort to decapitating (figuratively and physically) anyone who isn’t wearing the religion on their sleeve in order to assert our faith.

    I read a wise saying that Islam is the middle way between excess and neglect.

  5. saeed says:

    Asim bhai yes i guess today there is long unfilled gap b/w mullahs and educated people. what we need is to fill the gap and not to be the part of any extreme case. by “wake up” I mean to say that we should realize what we were and then to try to become that leading nation again. I guess this can be achieved only if we become successful in promoting a perfect blend of religion, science and education.
    Do read “Road to success” by Faiez Hassan Seyal a famous consultant worldwide. He is I guess the type of person I am talking about, a beautiful blend of religion and worldly success.
    Stay blessed

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