N.Y. Muslim Police Officer suspended during Ramadan for refusing to shave his beard wins case against the city.

Officer Masood Syed of New York Police Department, who sued his employer over a policy restricting beards for religious reasons, won his point of contention when P. Kevin Castel, a U.S. District Judge, criticized the city and said that the officer could be harmed without the courts giving him the requisite protection. The judge ordered the city to reinstate his pay and all benefits after being suspended and then escorted him from the police headquarters.

The New York Police Department's official stand on beards is that officers should not have facial hair. There are a few limited exceptions to this rule, based on religious or medical accommodation, but beards can be no longer than one millimeter in length. This beard policy became the center of a federal class action lawsuit brought up by Officer Masood Syed.

The police employee says that he was suspended from his job during Ramadan, the traditional fasting month, for his refusal to shave his grown one-inch beard. In 2011, he signed a policy agreeing not to wear his beard longer than one millimeter, however, throughout his employment he often wore his beard longer, at one-half to one-inch long. The lawsuit by Syed aims to compel the police department to change their policy. His lawyers allege that this particular law infringes on 100 officers' religious freedoms without any fear of retaliation and discrimination.

Officer Syed is a veteran in the police force, with more than 10 years of experience. He works at the office which manages disciplinary proceedings against police officers. According to Syed's lawyer, Luna Droubi, the whole incident is frustrating as New York is supposed to represent its population, which includes police officers. However, the police department itself is telling people who follow other than the majority faith that they are not allowed to protect and serve, and cannot be officers upholding the law as they are different.

According to the police department, this rule is required for the safety of standing officers. Deputy Commissioner Lawrence Bryne of legal matters in the department said that the policy assisted officers from being overpowered when it comes to physical confrontations. It also meets the federal guidelines related to gas masks which officers would wear if there will be a biological or chemical attack. Bryne said that New York continues to be a peak terrorist target and the city needs all of its 36,000 officers to step up if required.

It helped that Judge Castel himself is bearded. He said that one millimeter of facial hair is formed when a man does not shave for two days. He also said that there is no uniform enforcement of the policy. 


Follow the Conversation on Twitter