Philadelphia Muslim Firefighters Ordered to Trim Beards or Lose Jobs

October 19, 2005


On October 19, 2005 reported, "Philadelphia police officer Kenneth Wallace, a nine-year veteran of the force, is serving his second month-long suspension for refusing to shave. Wallace, a 31-year-old Muslim, has asked for an arbitration hearing to challenge the department's 1/4-inch limit on the length of beards. Muslim city workers sued Philadelphia, the fifth-largest U.S. city, beginning in February to challenge grooming and dress codes they claim violate their rights to religious expression... Muslims account for about 2 percent of Philadelphia's 1.5 million population, almost equal to the 2.4 percent, or 7 million, for the entire U.S. The city's Muslim population is the 18th largest in the nation. Muslim emergency workers have challenged grooming policies in cities including New York, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, saying the Koran and other religious teachings require the wearing of untrimmed beards or head coverings... Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who Islamic groups say is the only Muslim running a U.S. police department, softened decades-old rules in August 2003 to allow some beards. He has refused to budge on a requirement that whiskers be no more than a 1/4-inch long and neatly trimmed, said Corporal Jim Pauley, a department spokesman... Johnson began allowing beards four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that two Muslim police officers in Newark, New Jersey, could keep theirs because of their religious significance."