A Pakistani businessman is risking his life by sporting an enormous, gravity-defying moustache. Malik Amir Mohammad Khan Afridi has been kidnapped and had death threats from Islamic militants because of his eye-catching facial hair. Impeccably trimmed to 76 centimetres, Afridi spends 30 minutes a day on his gravity-defying hair.
“People give me a lot of respect. It’s my identity,” said the 48-year-old grandfather from Peshawar, when asked why he was prepared to risk everything for his whiskers. “I feel happy. When it’s ordinary, no one gives me any attention. I got used to all the attention and I like it a lot,” he said.
The 30-inch moustache enraged members of Lashkar-e-Islam, an ally of the Taliban, who said it went against religious doctrine that a moustache must be trimmed, if not shaved off. First the group demanded protection money of $500 a month. When he refused, four gunmen turned up at his house in 2009.
He says they held him prisoner for a month in a cave and only released him when he cut it off. “I was scared they would kill me, so that’s why I sacrificed my moustache,” he said. He fled to safety in Peshawar. And in 2012, after he grew back his hair, the threats started again.
So, he left the northwest altogether, moving to Faisalabad and returning to Peshawar to visit his family only once or twice a month. “I’m still scared,” he says. “I’m in Peshawar to spend Ramadan with my family but most of the time I stay at home,” he says.
But his wife and 10 children are less keen on his moustache. “Sometimes my family tell me ‘cut it, it would be better if you lived with us.’ I can leave my family, I can leave Pakistan, but I can never cut my moustache again,” he said.
His dream is to find political asylum, or participate in a foreign tournament, only if he can get a visa. “I’m trying to move my family abroad. To America, Canada, Britain or even to Dubai but I need asylum,” Afridi said.
Did you know?
Ram Singh Chauhan, an Indian, holds the record for the world’s longest moustache at 4.29 metres (14 feet). He even had a cameo in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy.
Rs 9108 Monthly cost to maintain his moustache