From the NYT: Sikh Soldier Allowed to Keep Beard in Rare Army Exception

By Dave Philipps.

On his first day at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Simratpal Singh sat in a barber chair where new cadets get their hair buzzed short, forced to choose between showing his faith and living it.

Cadet Singh had grown up a Sikh. As part of his faith, he had never cut his hair or beard. But his faith also encouraged protection of the oppressed, which inspired him to join the Army.

The Army would not allow a soldier with long hair or a beard, so that day he watched his locks drop to the floor.

“Your self-image, what you believe in, is cut away,” he said in an interview. For a long time after, he would shave without looking in the mirror.

That was almost 10 years ago. The cadet graduated, led a platoon of combat engineers who cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Last week, the Army finally granted now Captain Singh, 27, a religious accommodation that allows him to grow his beard and wrap his hair in a turban.

“It is wonderful. I had been living a double life, wearing a turban only at home,” he said. “My two worlds have finally come back together.”

It is the first time in decades that the military has granted a religious accommodation for a beard to an active-duty combat soldier — a move that observers say could open the door for Muslims and other troops seeking to display their faith. But it is only temporary, lasting for a month while the Army decides whether to give permanent status to Captain Singh’s exception.

If it decides not to, the captain could be confronted with the decision of whether to cut his hair or leave the Army. He has said he is prepared to sue if the accommodation is not made permanent.

“This is a precedent-setting case,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, a nonprofit public interest law firm that specializes in religious liberty. “A beard is a beard is a beard. If you let one religious individual grow it, you will need to do it for all religions.”

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From the Washington Post: Sponsoring a Beard

By Scott Allen.

When Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for his next start, he’ll do so as the first athlete with a sponsored beard.

Men’s grooming tool manufacturer Wahl announced the unprecedented four-month deal Tuesday at the National Press Club, where Gonzalez received a certificate of achievement for “facial hair excellence,” a T-shirt and a complimentary trim. Wahl also announced Washington, D.C. as the “most facial hair friendly” city in the country.

D.C. ranked 19th on the list of the most facial hair friendly cities last year. According to a press release, the Nationals played a large part in D.C.’s rise to No. 1.

Via Wahl:

While general popularity of facial hair helped dictate the results of the study, notable facial-hair-related events contributed to the rankings. In L.A., the male celebrity scene continues to support the anti-clean-shaven lifestyle, keeping the City of Bearded Angels at the number two spot. Third-ranked Seattle jumped five spots, raising questions about a possible Grunge revival, while newcomer San Francisco made a ‘Giant’ leap from 29th to 4th thanks in large part to a plethora of baseball beards and some post-season magic last fall.

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From NPR: Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military

By Tom Gjelten.

If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

So argues the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy organization that has long opposed a Pentagon ban on facial hair and religious headgear among service members. That campaign got at least a moral boost with this week’s court decision.

“What I’m anticipating with this decision is that we will have a move in this country to recognize the right of individuals from different religious backgrounds to live in an America that does not discriminate against them on the basis of how they appear,” says Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition.

As a general rule, the Department of Defense prohibits facial hair and the wearing of religious headgear among service members, though it offers “accommodation” on a case-by-case basis in recognition of “sincerely held beliefs.”

Such waivers, however, are given only when they would not undermine “military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or any other military requirement.”

In practice, those considerations can present major obstacles. Currently, just three observant Sikh men serve in the U.S. military, all in the Army, and all are in noncombat positions. That’s out of an active-duty military force of 1.4 million.

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This Man, This Moustache – Maximilian I

By David Michael Newstead.

Maximilian I was Emperor of the Second Mexican Empire, which existed between 1864 and 1867. He was royalty by birth, belonging to the Habsburg family that ruled Austria and most of Europe for 500 years.

What does that have to do with Mexico, you might ask?

Sponsored by the French government, this young Austrian was put on the throne during a particularly complicated and turbulent time in Mexican history. Monarchist and Republican forces fought over the future of the country and, even at his best, Maximilian was always going to be an outsider.

Despite some successes, his regime didn’t last. With American assistance, the Republicans eventually gained the upper hand. The French withdrew their support, but Maximilian refused to abandon his forces. In 1867, he was captured and executed by firing squad at age 34, thus bringing an end to this unusual chapter in history.Maximilian_I_of_Mexico_portrait_standing

The Left-Wing Beard

By David Michael Newstead.

In honor of May Day, I wanted to commemorate the long and well-established tradition of facial hair in left-wing politics. Among the beards and moustaches in question, some belonged to tyrants and revolutionaries, while others graced the chins of dissidents, democratically-elected leaders, and a few historical figures that occupy the gray space between good and bad.

Karl_Marx_1Karl Marx

Edward-SnowdenEdward Snowden

GORE APPLAUDS DURING POLITICAL DINNER INTRODUCTIONS IN IOWAAl Gore

Trotsky (2)Leon Trotsky

CheChe Guevara

99d/46/huty/14009/46Joseph Stalin

castroFidel Castro

vladimir-lenin,-crowd,-communism-171818Vladimir Lenin

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHippie

Beatnik15 b&wBeatnik

beatles-moustaches-3-resizedThe Beatles

PL6

Patrice Lumumba

thomas-sankara

Thomas Sankara

2014102716125195965

Jerry Rawlings

English template_clip_image001_0004

Nelson Mandela

LulaLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva

mujica-gamba.cl_José Mujica

Emiliano_Zapata4Emiliano Zapata

Nicolas MaduroNicolas Maduro

ho-chi-minh

Ho Chi Minh

Neil AbercrombieNeil Abercrombie

Bill-Clinton-and-Hillary-ClintonBill Clinton

Shaving Lessons

By Karyn Spellman.

My teenage son has gotten much better at shaving, not that he does it that often. He mentioned a few weeks ago that maybe he could will a beard and some sideburns to grow, but for now he’s settling for a ninth grade moustache.

He rarely emerges from the bathroom anymore with tiny bits of tissue stuck to cuts on his upper lip. He remembers to use shaving cream, and he even cleans up the sink most of the time.

My son asked me to buy him his first razor about a year ago, and I responded by suggesting that perhaps his father would be the better one to ask. No, not dad, he said. He didn’t trust him. This was a familiar refrain that didn’t need further explanation.

As I chose a razor for my son from the overwhelming selection at Target the next day, I accepted once again that I, the mother, was navigating my son’s journey into masculinity. For him, his need transcended gender and required someone he trusted with his questions and uncertainty. As a single parent for a few years now, I’ve gotten used to being both mother and father. Some of the issues that arise are complicated, like how a growing boy’s body is changing, and I can’t instinctually or anecdotally relate to that because I’m a woman, and I didn’t grow up with brothers. I have to gauge my son’s comfort level, think of what I know from having lived with a husband at one point, and decide just how much my candid self should say to a self-conscious teenager. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I’m asked to please stop talking already, but at least I know I was trusted enough to have been asked. Still, I can’t shake a feeling of inadequacy and a glaring lack of a Y chromosome. But this time, all he needed was for me to make a trip to the store. Or so both of us thought.

I couldn’t simply teach him how to shave his fuzzy upper lip by telling him how to do it. He needed a demonstration, but I certainly couldn’t do that. Well, I could be silly and pretend, but my son doesn’t “do” silly. I also could have lathered up his face and done the actual shaving myself while he watched in the mirror because I knew how to shave a man, having done it for his father once upon a time. But there were two problems with that: one was the “ew” factor kids have imagining their parents doing anything sensual, and the other was the painful reminder that these parents were no longer together. And then my son didn’t want verbal instructions, either. He just wanted to figure it out on his own. I caught the tension in his voice and could only guess that he thought that this was one more thing that his father should be doing with him and wouldn’t be, and here he was again, on his own.

So as I stood on the other side of the closed bathroom door hoping my son wasn’t shaving half the skin off of his face, I felt like I was too much of a parent for him, hovering too close, and not enough all at the same time. He didn’t need his mother right then, but I was all he felt he had. And I wanted so much more for him that I’ll ever be able to give.