Hundreds of Islamists protested on Friday at the police directorate in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut to support bearded police officers banned from returning to work by the Ministry of Interior after a court last month overturned a prior ministry suspension decision.
The protest was joined by Sharia students from Al-Azhar University, members of the Salafist Raya Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Construction and Development Party, Ansar Al-Sunna Foundation, the Salafist Call, and Salafist Front.
"The beard is not a sign of terrorism, but rather part of Mohamed's Sunnah [prophetic habits]," protesters chanted.
Egypt's administrative court issued a verdict on 20 February that allowed bearded policemen it had suspended to return to duty. However, the interior ministry refused to implement the verdict.
Abdel Moneim Nashat, coordinator of the Salafist ex-presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail's campaign and one of the protest's organisers, denounced the interior ministry refusal to reinstate the suspended officers.
"This is a message to President Mohamed Morsi and the interior minister. They have to abide by the rule of law, instead they respect artists more than bearded policemen," Nashat said.
Police officers in Egypt are not allowed to grow full beards. However, a group of policemen defied the law, saying it is their "right to grow beards" as a sign of Muslim piety.
The emergence of bearded policemen in Egypt caused controversy when several officers began to grow their beards after the parliamentary elections in 2012 that saw an Islamist sweeping majority over almost 70 percent of the contested seats.
The group of policemen stressed, however, they are not allied with any particular Islamic trend or political party.
Assiut police has been on strike as part of a wave of police protests demanding the resignation of the interior minister.