A father of 10 children, Malik Ameer Muhammad Afridi of Peshawar, Pakistan, has paid dearly for his 12-inch-long mustache, both literally and metaphorically. Besides spending roughly 15,000 Pakistani rupees (nearly $160) a month grooming it, Afridi was forced to flee his hometown in 2008 to protect his beloved facial hair from Islamic militants.
Four years ago Afridi was living in Bara, a city north of Peshawar, when men from the Lashkar-e-Islaami extremist group forced their way into his house, took him to the cleric and shaved his mustache at gunpoint, deeming it unacceptable according to Islamic law.
Losing the handlebar was a blow to Afridi, who owns an electronics shop. “I was very sad when the militants forcibly shaved off my mustache,” he said when interviewed by The News, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily. Afridi made two decisions in the aftermath of the incident: He spent 18 months growing his mustache back and moved to Peshawar, where he could ensure its safety.
“I left my dear homeland, my friends and relatives and prepared to sacrifice all that but will not compromise my mustache,” Afridi said.
Calling his handlebar a “harmless obsession,” Afridi labors painstakingly over it every day. He revealed his beauty tips to The Express Tribune, a Pakistan newspaper affiliated with The International Herald Tribune: first apply almond and coconut oil extracts to it, then curl each end with a gel from Germany. It reportedly takes him 30 minutes daily to groom it, with assistance from his wife.
Though the government pays him 5,000 Pakistani rupees, or $50, to care for his stache each month, Afridi said he has to foot the rest of the expenses.
Having a long mustache is considered a sign of bravery by some in Pakistan, according to Afridi. It has also earned him special treatment. People would give him their spots in line, he said.
“I’m proud of it as nobody in Pakistan has such a long moustache,” he told The News.