A Muslim Uttar Pradesh sub-inspector of police has been suspended for growing a beard, allegedly without the permission of the department, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. Intezar Ali was posted at Baghpat’s Ramala Police Station.

Baghpat Police Public Relations Officer Manoj Singh cited the police manual, saying that only Sikhs were allowed to keep a beard, and anyone else wanting to do so has to take permission. He claimed that Ali was asked to seek permission from the department but did not do so. Baghpat Superintendent of Police Abhishek Singh ordered Ali’s suspension on Wednesday.

“UP Police uniform rules are clear,” Singh told The Times of India. “He had been warned several times. A notice was served, but his indiscipline continued. A beard is allowed on a permanent basis only for followers of Sikhism. The armed forces also allow that because the beard is an integral part of their faith. That is not the case with Islam.” The newspaper said that while police uniform rules allow the officers to keep a moustache, a beard is disallowed.

Ali, however, told the newspaper that he had been seeking permission to keep the beard since last December.

Maulana Zulfikar, the Uttar Pradesh president of the All India Imams’ Association, called Ali’s suspension a violation of his right to practice his religion as per the Constitution of India. “Beard is associated with Islam and therefore Ali has the right to grow it,” he said.

Samajwadi Party leader Susheer Pawar wondered why Ali’s request for permission did not get any response, while adding that police personnel must maintain discipline.