Here’s a love story for you. We could all use one, right? This one comes to us from all the way across the globe—from far-off Pakistan. It’s not your typical story of love. It’s not boy meets girl, or even boy meets boy or girl meets girl. This is a love story between a man and his mustache.
Mustaches, for whatever reason, have become popular again in that ironic sort of way in which most things are popular nowadays. There’s Mustache May and even women are getting in on the fun, donning fake mustaches for the sake of tongue-in-cheek girls’ night out selfies and even in some cases tattooing them on the inside of their index fingers for the sake of LOLs.
While permanently inking your body shows a lot of dedication, it doesn’t even come close to the loyalty Malik Amir Mohammad Khan Afridi has for his mustache.
Looking at this impressive shock of facial hair, it’s easy to understand why Afridi loves it so much. It’s big and bushy, and he grooms it so it comes to outlandish points at each end. It makes him look like he’s wearing a bold, black W over his lip. (Hey! W stands for Whiskers, after all!) While it must take a whole lot of time, care and product to upkeep such an impressive coif, it pales in comparison to the amount of grief he’s gotten for it from none other than the Taliban.
We all know the Taliban aren’t the nicest dudes on Earth. They carry guns, get pissy if women want to be educated and generally cause all kinds of fuss in the Middle East. But apparently they also have a problem with Afridi’s showy face-fur. Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban ally operating in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s Afghan border, declared Afridi’s mustache un-Islamic and ordered him to chop it off. When he refused, the militant group kidnapped him and held him hostage in a cave prison for a month, according to a story on Aljazeera.com. They only released him when Afridi agreed to take a razor to his upper lip.
“I was scared they would kill me, so that’s why I sacrificed my moustache,” the story quoted Afridi as saying.
It’s a sad state of affairs. To think that in parts of the world men can’t even grow facial hair without facing persecution. OK, it may sound silly, sure, but imagine if that were going on in your hometown, that something so seemingly trivial could very well get you killed. Doesn’t sound so silly now, does it?
But the bare-lipped Afridi is a man of great spirit. Even though he knew his life could be in danger, he restored his beloved facial hair to its former glory, and once again he was levied with death threats.
Afridi had to make a choice, so he decided to leave his family for their safety and go into hiding. You know, sometimes you just have to suffer for what’s right—for the things you love.
“This is the only choice in my life,” he said in the Al Jazeera article. “I’d even sacrifice food, but not the moustache. It’s my life. It’s not part of my life. It is my life.”
Maybe leaving his family behind to fend for themselves doesn’t make Afridi a completely sympathetic figure. Maybe he should just shave the stupid thing so he can go back to his wife and kids. But I can empathize with Afridi. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a stand.
You see, I’ve had my own struggles with facial hair throughout my life. I wasn’t blessed with what most people would call a strong chin or a square jaw, like the ones you see drawn on comic book super heroes. I have a chin. And a jaw. I’m grateful for both, but they’re not what you’d call striking. Luckily, there was a saving grace built into my genetic code…the ability to grow facial hair. It’s a godsend for weak-jawed dudes like me.
Unfortunately, I could never commit like Afridi. I’ve tried to just go plain-faced, permanent 5 o’clock shadow, a full bushy beard…even a brief but disastrous flirtation with a goatee, but nothing’s really clicked. Right now I’m just in a lazy/I’ll shave it if I get around to it mode. It’s sad, really.
One day, I’d like to be like Afridi and just have a signature look, even if it’s not as bombastic as his fabulous arrangement of whiskers. And if I ever settle on such a thing, I won’t change it for anyone, not even rifle-wielding religious yahoos who want to shove me in a hole in the ground.
Godspeed, Mr. Afridi. I hope your love will survive persecution. What kind of world will we live in if it doesn’t?
-By James Barone