An Open Letter to İlhan Cavcav

Dearest Cavcav,

I was thrilled to learn of your beard ban imposed on all footballers at Gençlerbirliği Spor Kulübü. For too long, the beautiful game has been tarnished by facial hair. For too long this noble, elegant sport has been sullied by the sheer audacity of some men growing beards.

Whilst dissenters grumble that this ban is simply a coy move by a cunning manager to climb the Super League, I know that despite the well documented competitive edge a clean shaven face has, you dear Cavcav, are far more altruistic than that. There is no doubt that you will donate the money from the L25,000 (about nine months of an average Turkish salary) fines to football charities striving to keep faces smooth. Beards are known to lead to a lack of chin control, rampant insecurity complexes as players strive for the best beard, and a horrible ring of hair left around the edges of a pitch after a particularly wet game.

That is, of course, assuming that the beard ban was for an attempt by you to boldly lead us all into a new era of football, and not because you thought that players with beards made your team look like, as you said, an “iman-hatip school”.

Now, Turkey isn’t Britain. The weather gives that away, as do the extreme amounts of racial tension. Turkey does better than us in the former, worse in the latter. This is understandable, as religious unease has been growing in Turkey since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Parts of Syria are currently a strange mix of Syrian Isis sympathisers, Turkish Assad supporters, and a large group of the generally terrified. Cavcav, it seems that you may belong to the last group in this list.

As a Kosovar Albanian you undoubtedly have strong feelings on fundamentalist Sunni Islam. However, raising the stakes is counterproductive. Yes, students can now wear headscarves in school, and yes, it is now easier for those who went to religious schools to get into university, and yes, just next door in Syria Isis are ordering people to grow beards, and all of these things must be varying amounts of scary.

But intimidating Muslims like this, by banning beards and asking Uefa to ban beards, will not end the cycle of fear. Fear is an ugly thing, it can unite and it can divide, but it is rarely rational. Banning beards will only add to the siege mentality held by many fundamentalist Muslims, leading each side to view the other as an enemy first and a fellow human second. This cannot be allowed to happen. They’re just beards, Cavcav. They don’t mean you’re about to get blown up.

Warmest regards,

[Jim Walker]

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