FORT HOOD, TX - In a last minute effort to save the life of his beard, Fort Hood shooting suspect Major Nidal Hasan told a military panel that he cannot shave due to his Amish faith.
The Amish, or Pennsylvania Dutch, are known for simple living, plain dress, and their traditionalist Christian fellowship.
"As a proud Amishman, I must wear my beard in keeping with my religion," Hasan said today, to a courtroom of military members who were clearly shocked at the new revelation.
The Army psychologist is facing court martial on murder charges stemming from a November 2009 attack at the base. Witnesses reported Hasan shouting "Allah Akbar", or "God is Great" in Arabic, before allegedly opening fire on fellow soldiers.
"Nidal is clearly being singled out here for his religious views," said criminal defense attorney Lawrence Gilder. "He is a pious, hard-working Amish man from a good family. In fact, our defense will demonstrate that the Major has an alibi at the time of attack: he was milking 3 cows and afterwards he made love to his pet goat, Walter."
Most outsiders assumed from Hasan's name, his parents' Palestinian background, and his business card tagline of "Soldier of Allah", that he was Muslim. The judge, Col. Jeffrey Tribley, pressed Hasan for more information on this discrepancy.
"Yes sir. I am Muslim and Amish," Hasan responded. "This of course means that my beard is two-times as important to my religion, and under religious exceptions in the UCMJ, it is required."
According to the Duffel Blog's legal analysts, the case for Hasan's beard is strong.
"Yeah bro, seriously. He's definitely got a strong argument for the beard," said Barracks Lawyer PFC Evan Rodriguez. "I'm pretty sure he can claim this whole trial is hazing and get it thrown out too."
But some detractors say this latest diversion distracts from the real issues.
"The fact that we have to sit here and see news stories over and over about this man's beard when he's on trial for murder is lunacy," said CSM Robert Altman. "What are some of the more important issues at stake here that many have been ignoring? Well, here's a few: he hasn't worn his dogtags in months. I've seen him in white socks on quite a few occasions."
"I mean really, white socks. This son of a bitch needs to be executed for that. Let the Army make an example out of him, right?," added Altman.
Lawyers for Hasan continue to press for beard leniency, but have said that if he is forcibly shaved, they will motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that their client would be "forced to endure a hate crime."