I myself got caught up in The Great Secular Hair Panic of 1964 when teachers sent me to the school vice principal's office more than once because of the length of my bangs. (Let's just say The Ramones stole my hairstyle.) I challenged the authorities to justify their zealotry to override my style autonomy, and they spluttered and resorted to bogus health claims.
The point is: Hair matters. It matters in a way that's like religion and often part of religion.
Today comes the news (at BBC.com) that a "footballer" (i.e., soccer player) named Asamoah Gyan — along with 40-some others — has been deemed to have "unethical hair" under the United Arab Emirates Football Association guidelines.
Some Islamic teachings ban 'Qaza' hairstyles, where only part of the head is shaved.Gyan's hair isn't some extreme half-shaved look, but simply a short on the sides, long on top look. (I see many American college basketball games out of the corner of my eye, and I'd guess that at least half of the men get their hair cut like this. It strikes me as neat and attractive.)
So Islam, like many other religions and things that are not even religion but unleash religion-like repression, has rules about hair. I don't remember noticing the word "Qaza" before, so I looked it up. Before I show you what I found, let me say that I think sports teams are entitled to have rules about how the players look. They have to wear uniforms, but unlike uniforms, you're stuck with the haircut outside of the game, so I'd like to see some benevolence here.**
Here's a webpage that looks like a sincere effort at explaining Qaza: "Ruling on shortening the sides of the hair more than the middle."
Al-Nasaa’i (5048) and Abu Dawood (4195) narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) saw a boy part of whose head had been shaved and part of it left. He told them not to do that and said: “Shave all of it or leave all of it.”....3 things connect: 1. Subjective opinions about what looks good (aesthetics), 2. The interest in distinguishing your group from other people (politics), and 3. The words of venerated persons (historical and textual reasoning).
[I]t says in Sharh al-Iqnaa’: Qaza’ includes shaving some places on the sides of the head, or shaving the middle and leaving the sides, as most of the Christians do, or shaving the sides and leaving the middle, as many of the foolish do, or shaving the front and leaving the back. Ahmad was asked about shaving the back of the head and he said: This is the action of the Magians, and whoever imitates a people is one of them. Thus it is known that it is not permissible to leave some parts of the hair longer than others....
Moreover, this style is not beautification for either men or women, rather it is changing the creation of Allaah and spoiling people's appearance, and it is an imitation of the West in which there is no benefit, in addition to the cost involved, as it involves a lot of effort and spending money on something that is harmful, as is well known. We advise men not to adopt this western style and we advise women to stick with that which their mothers and grandmothers did, of letting their hair grow and braiding it, as this is more beautiful....
Do you have any strongly held views about hair, strong enough that you would impose them on anyone other than yourself? If so, does your view contain those 3 elements?
* What is "religion" anyway? To explore the continuum from religion to absolutely no way that's religion, read my 2009 Religion and the Constitution exam, which had 5 prisoners asserting a right to be free of the prison's forced haircut policy.
** Much more could be said — in the style of that 2009 exam — about the individual reasons people have for their hairstyles and why some might deserve special treatment and others not. But once you give an exemption, it's hard to exclude somebody else from an exemption. You can't say rules are rules. It's best to begin with a rule that isn't any harsher than it needs to be. And it's especially bad to begin with a rule that has a disparate racial impact, which might be what's going on in Gyan's case. (Did the United Arab Emirates Football Association crack down on a kind of haircut that had caught on among black players?)