Video explains Pakistan’s love for mustaches

August 20, 2013

Mustaches are really, really popular in Pakistan, as in much of South Asia and the Middle East. The first half of this recent video, from AFP, takes a stab at explaining why.

"A man's face without a mustache looks like a woman," says a customer in one of the barber shops that specialize in trimming facial hair. An al-Jazeera article discussing one particularly dramatic mustache translates what it says is an Arabic proverb: "The falcon could perch on his mustache."

The second half of the video addresses the mustache discussed in the al-Jazeera article, that of Malik Amir Mohammad Khan Afridi of Pakistan. Afridi is clearly a bit of a character, as evidenced by his enormous and beloved mustache. But his case reflects something much more serious.

Afridi received death threats from Islamist militants for his mustache; any facial hair short of a beard is seen by some extremists as a religious affront. He was eventually kidnapped for a month by a Taliban-allied group called Lashkar-e-Islam, which forced him to shave off the 'stache. But he eventually fled to Peshawar and grew it back.

A religious studies fellow at Oxford University named Ishtiaq Ahmad told al-Jazeera of Afridi's case, "The controversy over such a trivial matter speaks volumes of the steep decline in Islamic values of peace, compassion and tolerance in Pakistan."

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