Barbers in Pakistani Town Get Taliban-Style Warning Not to Shave Beards

Suspected Islamic radicals have issued a Taliban-style warning to barbers in a Pakistani border town not to shave off or cut their customers' beards, saying it offends Islam, residents said Monday.

Pamphlets bearing the warnings were found at several shops in Inayat Kalay in Pakistan's Bajur tribal region near the Afghan border, said Bacha Khan, a barber in the market town.

"Barbers! Correct yourselves," said the handwritten, Pashto-language notes, one of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"Any barber shop where acts against Shariah (Islamic law) — shaving or cutting of beards — are seen, are given a final warning to stop this anti-Shariah work and if they do not stop, they should take responsibility for whatever harm they come to," the pamphlet said.

The pamphlets were unsigned. However, Khan said he believed the warnings were from mujahedeen, or holy warriors, a term often used to describe Islamic militants.

He said two dozen barbers had responded by posting notices in their shops asking customers not to insist on getting a shave.

"We do not want to come to harm," Khan said. "If this work is against Shariah, we will stop it."

The warning echoed a decree issued under Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime ordering all men to grow beards and could reinforce concern that Pakistan's border areas are undergoing a "Talibanization" because of the presence of militants and radical preachers.

Security officials say Taliban and other militants suspected of attacks on Afghan and foreign troops on the other side of the border are active in Bajur.

Many Taliban fled to Pakistan when U.S.-led forces drove them out of Afghanistan in 2001-2002.

Before their ouster, Taliban vice squads roamed the streets beating those suspected of trimming their beard. The Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islam saw them also ban women and girls from work and school and outlaw activities such as kite-flying and chess.