Sunday, October 08, 2006

Can You Tell Which One Is Me? :)

Barbers of Baghdad Beware!

Snippetted from full reporting by The Washington Post on Oct. 6, 2006, with H/T Israellycool:

BAGHDAD -- The cleric's young men fanned out across the neighborhood, moving from shop to shop, posting the new religious decrees. Printed neatly on white-and-green fliers, the edicts banned vices like "music-filled parties and all kinds of singing."

They proscribed celebratory gunfire at weddings and "the gathering of young men" in front of markets and girls' schools. Also forbidden were the "selling of liquor and narcotic drugs" and "wearing improper Western clothes." But at the bottom of the list of prohibitions was a single command. Scrawled in green ink, it read simply: "Cut hair."

Ali Abdul Latif, who cuts hair in Baghdad's Tobji neighborhood, says he cannot do styles that are considered Western, such as gelling long hair.

"I feel powerless," lamented Moataz Hussein, 22, a wiry, soft-voiced teacher seated in a hair salon on the main road of the Tobji neighborhood on Sunday. His long, stylish black hair was now a recent memory. "They are controlling my life."

Amid the sectarian strife plaguing Baghdad, a wave of religious fundamentalism is curbing personal freedoms and reshaping the daily lives of Iraqis who have long enjoyed one of the most liberal lifestyles in the Arab world.

Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shiite Muslim extremists have imposed their own sets of rules for the cutting of hair. In recent months, barbers have been killed, threatened or forced to close their shops after being accused of giving haircuts that were considered un-Islamic or too Western.

The new decrees in Tobji, posted last week, came from a little-known council created by the local office of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. It is called the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a title derived from a verse in the Koran.

Inside the hair salon, the flier was posted on a cream-colored wall next to a mirror, visible to every customer. The image of Sadr's father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, a revered ayatollah, who was assassinated in 1999, is emblazoned on the flier, giving it the force of law.

It was signed "The Sadr Martyrs Office" and ended with a warning: "Those who do not comply with these rules will be held accountable."

"This is civilization gone backwards," said Sabah, 20, wearing an orange T-shirt, his hair short and his face cleanshaven. "You can't have, in 2006, haircuts that are similar to the 1970s. But if I don't cooperate, they will take me to their office and beat me up."

In early August, a group of armed men walked into Abu Ahmed Jassim's barbershop in southeast Baghdad. They shot dead his 23-year-old brother and another barber, as well as two customers. Before they left, they set a bomb. Jassim arrived an hour later to find the charred carcass of his shop.

Now get this "punchline':

Jassim said he is making plans to seek asylum in Lebanon: "I've lost my spirit to work."

It's not funny that his heart and soul have been battered or that his life has been threatened--what's "funny" is that he thinks life will be better in Lebanon. I guess it's all a matter of perspective, eh?

From FOXnews coverage of this same story:
Ali Hussein, a 25-year-old barber who owns a salon in Dora, says the threat is real enough to threaten his livelihood. Like other barbers, he's gotten the flyers from militants bearing their instructions for how to cut hair and promising death for those who violate the rules.

"They are even forbidding us to hang posters showing the most recent haircuts," Hussein said.

He now cuts customers' hair in secret inside his house.

"I don't want to be killed, but I don't want to be broke either," he said.