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NYPD reinstates Muslim officer suspended for not shaving his beard

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A Muslim policeman who sued the New York City Police Department after he was suspended for refusing to shave his beard has been reinstated and the department has agreed to review its ban on beards, his lawyers said on Thursday.

A judge last week ordered the NYPD to continue paying Officer Masood Syed his salary and benefits after he sued the department, claiming that the no-beard policy was unconstitutional.

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“It seems like the department has taken the crucial first step in addressing an important and growing concern of officers of many different faiths,” Syed said in a statement released by his attorneys.

“I am hopeful that the department’s new policy will in fact allow myself and other officers to wear our beards at a reasonable length without the fear of retaliation or hostility,” he said.

An NYPD spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday evening.

In a letter sent to the judge and provided to news outlets by Syed’s attorneys, the city’s law department asks that a hearing scheduled for July 8 in the case be adjourned because the officer had been “restored to full duty” and the two sides were discussing a resolution of the lawsuit.

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The NYPD’s written policy is that officers cannot wear beards, but an unwritten policy designed to provide religious accommodation allows for beards of up to 1 millimeter long, according to the lawsuit.

Syed, a law clerk in the department, has worn a beard of about 1/2 to 1 inch (13 to 25 mm) for years for religious reasons.

In December, according to the lawsuit, he was told by supervisors that his beard was too long and ordered to shorten it. When he did not, he was suspended, according to the complaint.

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In 2013, a Hasidic Jewish probationary officer won a lawsuit against the department over the same policy.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer ruled in 2013 that the policy violated the First Amendment guarantee of free religious exercise.

The Hasidic officer, Fishel Litzman, was allowed to return to work with a beard of around 1 inch, according to Syed’s lawyer.

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(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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