21 Dec 2009

Islamic militants order men to grow beards

7:31 am on 21 December 2009

A militant Islamist movement in Somalia has ordered all men to grow beards and shave their moustaches.

They have also been ordered to wear their trousers above the ankle.

A spokesperson for the al-Shabaab movement says the aim is complete implementation of Sharia law. Anyone who ignores the rules will be punished.

In the past al-Shabaab has carried out executions, floggings and amputations in order to enforce its rulings.

The movement is fighting the Somali government for control of the capital, Mogadishu, and is battling another Islamist militia, Hizbul Islam, in the provinces.

Women already under strict dress code

It is the first time that the insurgents, who seek to impose a strict form of sharia, have focused on men's appearance, having previously banned bras and ordered women to cover their entire bodies.

They have also banned musical ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

In two and a half years the insurgency has killed more than 19,000 civilians, displaced a million people, allowed piracy to flourish offshore and spread security fears in the region.

Somalia has not had a fully functioning central government since 1991. Its current transitional government controls little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu, with the rest carved up between al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.