Human rights groups have called for an investigation into the treatment of an al-Qaeda terrorist in U.S. custody, claiming that he was forced to grow his hair in a so-called ‘mullet’ style in contravention of his religious beliefs.
Ali Saleh al-Marri, who was released from federal prison earlier this month, had been in U.S. custody since 2001, and is at the center of a controversy over an alleged prisoner swap deal with Qatar.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other protest groups say that pictures of al-Marri after his release clearly show him with a hairstyle that they say shows obvious signs of his having been abused while in detention.
The controversy has erupted in the wake of a spate of other Islamic hair-related cases. Last October, Maj. Nidal Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter who murdered 13 service personnel, was forcibly shaved after losing his appeal against the refusal by the Department of Defence to allow him the right to wear a Mohammed (PBUH)- style beard while in military detention.
And in December, Muslim advocacy groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jonathan Berts, a former Navy enlisted man from Northern California who says he was the target of ethnic slurs, was reassigned to a menial job, and was later denied re-enlistment after seeking permission to wear a beard for religious reasons.
Barri Cylon, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, told the Dandy Goat: “These so-called ‘mullet’ hairstyles are commonly referred to as ‘business at the front, party at the back.’ But any form of partying is haram [forbidden] in Islam. So this haircut violates his religious rights, in addition to his right to dignity of personhood, and every known precept of fundamental human decency.”
Al-Marri was picked up on a routine traffic stop just weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks. He was charged with providing “material support or resources” to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives, and was believed to have been planning a “second wave” of attacks, which could have included attempts to poison water supplies.
Pictures of al-Marri at the time of his arrest show him with unkempt hair and a dishevelled jihadi-style beard. His appearance now “resembles that of a member of Journey circa 1982” claims Ms. Cylon. “We have long been protesting the playing of loud rock music in Guantanamo Bay to disorientate detainees and keep them awake. But this is adding insult to injury. It’s so demeaning. It’s like dressing your three-year-old up as some kind of slutty beauty queen, or making your dog wear a tutu.”
A spokesperson for the firm of human rights lawyers investigating claims of abuse against Mr. al-Marri told the Dandy Goat that they “‘won’t stop believing” in their client.