NYPD Takes ‘First Step’ to Allow Muslim Officers to Grow Beards
By Rob L. Wagner
Jeddah: Muslim New York City police officers say that a new policy allowing them to grow their beards up to a half inch long on religious grounds is a “step in the right direction” but improvements in the regulations are still needed.
Police Lt. Adeel Rana, president of the Muslim Officers Society of the New York Police Department, told Arab News on Saturday that his members are excited about the policy change.
“The policy change doesn’t fully resolve the issues but it is a great step toward that full achievement,” Rana said. “The biggest excuse that was given in the past was that due to safety and gas mask the beard is not allowed. Now that excuse is eliminated, let’s see what will be the next step. We have high hopes and know that the department will work with us and will try to accommodate anyone to the best ability as they can.”
The revised policy, which also covers religious accommodations for Sikhs, previously limited the length of an officer’s beard to 1 millimeter. Sikhs also are now permitted to wear turbans. Female Muslim New York police officers have been allowed to wear the hijab for many years.
There are about 1,000 Muslim and 160 Sikh New York City police officers. Two Sikhs and 33 Muslims were among the 557 recruits who recently graduated from the department’s training academy.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement to Arab News, “It’s a major change in our uniform policy, so we had to go about it carefully. And now I have the opportunity to make the change, and I thought it was about time that we did that.”
Rana said the policy revision stems from a lawsuit filed by police officer Masood Syed, who was suspended due to his beard length. A judge ordered the police department to develop a policy to accommodate religious beliefs.
“Over all the membership is excited about the change in the policy,” Rana said. “There are a few individuals including Masood Syed that feel it doesn’t go far enough. They were asking for at least 2 inches. Most of the members have a beard that is shorter or about ½ inch and are happy with the new policy, which will allow them to keep their beards without any repercussions.”
Rana said the issue “is an important topic” among members of the Muslim Officers Society.
“It was mainly overlooked and members were allowed to keep the beard without anyone challenging,” Rana said. “And when someone was challenged, it was dealt with case by case bases. There was no official rule other than a 1mm length rule.”
Syed, a lawyer and 10-year veteran of the department, told CNN that he wants the policy to allow beards up to 2 inches long. He called the revision “arbitrary.”
“I’m still disappointed,” Syed said. “If they’re saying now that the policy is half an inch and I’m walking around in police headquarters with the top brass, walking around with a beard that’s 1 1/2 to 2 inches, where does that leave me? Am I going to be suspended again? Am I going to be walked out of the building again?” – Arab News