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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