On Friday, the court martial for accused Fort Hood shooter Maj Nidal Hassan was indefinitely postponed pending the decision whether the trial judge has the jurisdiction to have his beard forcibly shaved or not.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shooting at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. His attorneys say that as a practicing Muslim, Hasan has grown a beard in preparation of his ‘imminent’ death.
While Hasan’s attorneys maintain that the beard is an expression of religious beliefs of the Fort Hood shooter, unshorn facial hair is in violation of Army grooming regulations.
The presiding judge, Colonel Gregory Gross found the sight of Hasan’s beard so gross that he has held Hasan in contempt of court five times and has had him repeatedly removed from court.
Earlier this week, Gross was almost ready to have Hasan forcibly shaved by soldiers, but the Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces stopped him, ruling that it would decide whether the trial judge at all has the jurisdiction to force Hasan to shave or not.
Army Colonel Jeffrey Addicott, an expert on the Uniform Code of Military Justice said, “He is a military officer until he is found guilty.” But he also admitted “We don’t allow beards in the military.”
That matter of beards is not universal though, and there are precedents of exemption being granted to some men of Sikh faith which requires men to wear beards. However, the Court of Appeal has earlier rejected Hasan’s request for a “religious accommodation” to wear a beard.
According to Addicott, if Hassan’s beard is shaved forcibly he can claim that the U.S. military discriminates against Muslims, and if he is allowed to keep it, he can claim he defeated the U.S. military by his defiant beard.
Meanwhile, Hasan who is accused of gunning down and killing 13 people and wounding 29 others, continues to receive his salary of about $ 72,000 a year.