Nidal Hasan’s mysteriously religious beard

A few months ago, I looked at coverage of a judge’s order that the beard of alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan must be shaved. We have a bit of an update to that story from the Associated Press:

The military’s highest court ousted the judge in the Fort Hood shooting case Monday and threw out his order to have the suspect’s beard forcibly shaved before his court-martial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Col. Gregory Gross didn’t appear impartial while presiding over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.

But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge’s order violated Hasan’s religious rights. Hasan has argued that his beard is a requirement of his Muslim faith, although facial hair violates Army regulations.

To be honest, the entire story left me a bit confused in the particulars. The general idea, though, is that the appeals court was worried that it had become a battle of wills between Gross and Hasan. One issue involved a medical waste bag and an adult diaper in the bathroom … but I was a bit confused about what was going on.

In any case, I’m reminded once again of how poorly the religion angle to this story has been covered. I’m just going to quote what I wrote months ago:

But more than anything I wonder why not a single expert on Muslim grooming could be cited. There have to be various schools of thought on this issue, right? What do they say? Do they say nothing? If nothing, that should be mentioned, too. Did Hasan just make this beard thing up? Did he have any justification? What did his defense argue? Shouldn’t these things be included in the story?

That’s one angle I’d like to see covered. Another comes from what one commenter to the previous post wrote:

As an Army Chaplain the issue surrounding Hasan’s beard is at its heart a religious freedom issue. With that said there is no inherent violation of his rights. All Soldiers, including Christian, Jewish or Sikh (among many) who desire to follow structures of their faith that collide with Army policy must, I repeat must, follow a process called “accommodation of religious practices.” The Soldier in question must go through an interview process, that includes a Chaplain, to verify the truth and reality of the claim and request for exception to Army policy, in this case a beard. Hasan, to my knowledge, has not followed the process, so whether he is in uniform or in civilian clothes he is still an Army officer required to follow Army grooming standards.

Has Hasan gone through the accommodation process? If not, why not? What do Hasan’s lawyers say about why he changed his mind about what his religion says about facial hair? Since the entire progress of the trial rests on answers to these questions, isn’t it kind of weird that we’re not seeing more about what’s going on? Why the sparse coverage of the key religion angles here?

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  • Darren Blair

    As someone who lives next door to Ft. Hood?

    The *real* story lies even deeper than the faith issue.

    There’s a rather overwhelming amount of evidence against Hasan, including not only eyewitness testimony of the incident itself but also co-workers from his time at Walter Reed and government intercepts of his various communications.

    The current (local) speculation is that Hasan and his lawyers likely know that the evidence is overwhelming, hence the various stalling tactics being employed.

    The beard may have originally been grown to help obscure his image should eyewitnesses be called, but now he and his lawyers are running with the “Islam” angle to try and actually get the trial delayed even longer.

  • Reformed Catholic

    You missed part of the ruling. The Appeals Court based its decision on the fact that the judge does not have authority to enforce grooming rules. That authority is given to the Convening Authority, the Command that Maj Hasan belongs to.

    Now that the responsibility has been assigned, the Convening Authority may now decide to initiate the process to determine whether facial hair in this case is a real requirement.

    That said, I see an awful lot of Saudis in TV reports with mustaches but no beards.

  • Falcon 78

    For those not following Hasan’s case–the Fort Hood shooter–it has now been over three years and this guy has not yet even been to trial. Understand he was shot and is now a paraplegic and they had to wait for him to heal somewhat–but 3 years. Sixth Amendment rights to a “speedy trial” should also be applied to the victims. Society has a right to see their courts act vigorously to deliver justice in a timely manner. Let’s get on with it.

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