The Politics of Beards: Syrian Rebels Edition

Almost all the [Syrian] rebel fighters sport similar facial hair….

Some beards do indeed signify religiosity, especially the bushy Salafist type with only the shadow of a moustache, a style believed by followers to have been favoured by the Prophet Muhammad.

In addition to their religious significance, the beards also have practical and political implications:

Yet many fighters, like Abu Azzam, have beards for other reasons: to seem more devout so as to attract cash from rich conservative donors; to appear more authoritative; to satisfy a personal taste; or simply because their wives like it. “We have no time to shave!” laughs a skinny fighter, bringing up the topic spontaneously.

Despite such jokes, moderate fighters worry that beards may give Westerners a bad impression. Abu Adnan, who leads a small band of fighters in the hills above Latakia, the Assads’ homeland, refuses to be interviewed until he has shaved. Abu Samer, who runs a local revolutionary police station, agrees to meet only after checking that I work for a newspaper rather than a television station. “I know people will interpret my beard the wrong way,” he says. “It’s a bad image to give the revolution.”

From the Economist.

There are some things that just do not fit neatly into existing models of civil war. Nevertheless, bearded rebels are in good company–in their appearance if not their politics. Interestingly enough few American Revolutionaries wore beards and thankfully wigs have fallen out of favor since then.

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

Che Guevara

Che Guevara

Ruhollah Khomeini

Ruhollah Khomeini

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  1. Pingback: Politics of Beards: Post-Mubarak Egypt Edition | You Study Politics, Right?

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