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FBI arrests 7 for cutting Amish hair, beards

Federal authorities have arrested seven people for hate crimes in connection with a spate of hair-cutting attacks on Amish in Ohio.
Amish beard hair cutting attacks ohio 11 23 2011Enlarge
Amish teachings include strict rules on their followers' hair and beards. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A group of breakaway members of the Amish community are suspected of forcibly cutting the hair and beards of Amish men and women, the Associated Press reported.

Led by the aptly named Sam Mullet, the group is accused of at least half a dozen attacks in and around Holmes County, Ohio, in September and October.

The suspects were arrested in a dawn raid at their compound near the Bergholz village, reported the Ohio News Network, and were due to be arraigned later on Wednesday.

They have been charged with carrying out "religiously motivated physical assaults" and causing injury by use of a dangerous weapon, said the BBC.

More from GlobalPost: Authorities investigating Amish-on-Amish attacks in Ohio

Mullet is said to be the head of a splinter settlement estranged from nearby Amish communities, and resentful of what he perceived to be their persecution of his group.

He and his followers allegedly intended the unwanted haircuts as an act of protest against their fellow Amish, for whom the cutting of hair and beards is strictly proscribed.

In a New York Times report, victims described how a gang of men, wielding scissors and battery-powered clippers, arrived at their home at night, held them down and forcibly lopped off beards from the faces of men and hair from the heads of women.

A 13-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man were among those assaulted, police said. One elderly victim was attacked by his own son.

Beverly Cushman, Westminster College associate professor of religion and Christian education, explained the significance of the attacks in the Tribune Chronicle:

"The Bible says women are not to cut their hair, that hair is a blessing and is part of a woman's beauty and it belongs to their husband. To have hair forcefully cut is to be shamed.

"For the men with a beard, you can only begin to grow a beard when you get married. It is a symbol of full status, a symbol of your adult manhood. Again, for it to be cut is to be shamed."

Amish have a "turn the other cheek" policy and are traditionally reluctant to involve law enforcement, which is why some victims have refused to press charges even despite the violent and humiliating nature of the attacks, the Times said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/fbi-arrests-7-cutting-amish-hair-beards