CAIRO - Widely portrayed in local media as terrorists', a growing number of Egyptian bearded men are complaining from falling prey to security forces and vigilantes looking to arrest supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
"The hostility of the people is even worse than police harassment," Mohamed Tolba, a Salafist Muslim, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday, August 22.
Under Morsi rule, the first bearded Egyptian president, lots of Egyptian men chose to grow their beards and women don niqab or face-veil.
For them, they were restoring long lost freedom and safety from being targeted by security forces.
The atmosphere was changing after army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Morsi on July 3 after mass rallies, setting off something of a witch hunt against those perceived as being his supporters.
The campaign has been fed by domestic media, which has broadcast around-the-clock images of bearded gunmen allegedly firing at security forces during demonstrations.
One video, which was proved to be fabricated later, showed a bearded man with a jihadist flag attacking young men after they were thrown off the roof of an apartment block in Alexandria.
Local media and the government have also loudly labeled the Muslim Brotherhood wholesale as "terrorists".
Exacerbating the frenzy, the so-called "popular committees"'; neighborhood militias, have made life even worse, giving vigilantes the chance to wreak havoc, particularly in Cairo after a night-time curfew was implemented.
"I was in a shared taxi headed to the morgue, transporting the body of my friend who was killed in the demonstrations," said Abdul Salam Badr.
"I was stopped by members of a vigilante group because I had a beard," added the 29-year-old, who said he was not loyal to any political organization.
"The only thing that saved me was the fact that I was transporting a dead body."
Becoming a regular victim of harassment, he decided to shave his beard "because life has become safer without a beard."
The phenomenon was worrying to many analysts, seeing it as trespassing their personal freedom guaranteed by law.
"The targeting of those with beards is deplorable behavior which threatens peaceful coexistence between Egyptians," warned Nivine Messad, another political science professor at Cairo University.
"It is a bad sign for the future, and an indication of the divisions between Egyptians," she said.
"Cooler heads must step in to put an end to the violence and incitement."
The stereotyping in Egypt after the crackdown was not limited to Egyptians.
A bearded western photographer was also forced to shave his beard after being abused by citizens who links him to Brotherhood.
Wearing a beard is a Sunnah in Islam.
To avoid recurrent attacks, a prominent Egyptian salfist preacher, Mohammad Abdel- Maqsoud, has issued a fatwa allowing bearded men to shave to avoid police and thugs harassment.
The fatwa was opposed by other prominent scholars, namely Mohammad Hussein Yaqoub and Abu ishaq El-Huiny, who regarded shaving beard as a sin.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net