As in many other religions, the beard is important for a certain subgroup of Jews. Leviticus 19:27 states: “You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard”. Then watch the smirk:
It’s not only Jews. Many Muslims as well view shaving as haram, or forbidden, because the prophet and his immediate followers wore beards. Consequently, those who do not like Muslims sometimes engage in forcible shaving. Here’s a present-day example:
Nidal Hasan … [t]he army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an army spokesman has said. Major Nidal Hasan began growing a beard after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. … Hasan, 42, who was born in America, is an inmate of the US detention barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, home to the military death row. (source)
Pointless and petulant, if you ask me. However, one can perhaps invoke military grooming regulations or other reasons (maybe the performance of the death penalty in general requires a clean shaven face, I don’t know). Another bizarre story of attacks on beards: an Amish splinter group has been forcibly cutting the beards off of their rivals.
The beard, of course, isn’t the only religious symbol that can come under attack:
Today, in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the ACLU and United Sikhs called on state officials to investigate the harassment of a Sikh commercial truck driver pulled over early this year for a flat tire. After detaining Mr. Jageet Singh in January as he passed through Mississippi, the officers called him a “terrorist” and harassed and humiliated him because of his appearance and religious beliefs. As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan. A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians.
Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are “depraved” and “terrorists.” They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer’s lawful command.
Mr. Singh’s ordeal did not end with the MDOT. When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh’s turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.
When Mr. Singh’s attorney went to Judge Rimes’s chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed “that rag” from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress. (source)
Similar to the turban is the veil for Muslim women. This symbol is often the target of discomfort, criticism and even legal prohibition. There have been reports of violent attacks on Muslim women wearing the veil. Here’s one case (warning: shocking video):
Then there were the bombings of mosques in Bosnia:
The “war on Christmas” is a canard, but there have been genuine attacks on Christianity, such as this and this for instance. What the “war on Christmas” does make clear, however, is that a lot of so-called attacks on religious symbols are in reality attempts by democratic governments to remain religiously neutral. Here’s a famous case:
The Mojave Memorial Cross is a cross formerly on public land in the Mojave desert that was at the center of the Salazar v. Buono legal case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The original cross was erected in 1934 to honor those killed in war. The cross has been maintained by volunteers and was reconstructed after being destroyed. It was boarded up after lower court rulings declared it illegal because of separation of church and state constitutional concerns.
The Supreme Court ruled that the cross may stay.