Beirut Cops Can’t Tell Hipsters From Jihadis

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Man with a bushy beard wearing a cap and designer street wear, London, England
Photo: Simon McGill/Getty Images; Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

It’s hard to be a whiskey-swilling, cigar-smoking, beard-loving man in Lebanon these days, because full-bodied facial hair is the surest way to be mistaken for a jihadi. Seems like everyone in Beirut’s flannel-wearing crowd has had a run-in with the police, if the stories they told NPR are to be believed. 

My beard is like my girlfriend,” remarked bartender Mazen Hariz. He cares for her selflessly, wasting 30 minutes each morning just on making sure she looks healthy and shiny. But now Hariz is thinking of shaving because not a day goes by that he’s not interrogated by police about his presumed extremist views. Nearby, another guy told NPR that he’s been threatened by gun-wielding cops over his beard but he still loves it. “It’s me,” he said.

Sure, Lebanon’s colorful political and religious scene means the country has weirdos of all stripes. But aspiring craft-brewers may find it easier to convince authorities that the only thing they hate is conventionalism if they carry a flask or a pack of cigarettes on them at all times — both, of course, anathema to true jihadis.