In the 1960s and 70s in Algeria, the beard was mainly worn by far-left sympathisers. It was often long and untrimmed. At the end of the 1970s, with the advent of Islamist ideology, more and more men started to wear one as well because the Prophet Mohammad wore one, and they wanted to do the same as him. On this issue, the Ulama (Muslim legal scholars) are divided. Some say wearing a beard is not a religious obligation, arguing that the Prophet wore it simply because it was the norm at the time.
Some religious texts also recommend shaving only the moustache. This has been interpreted in many different ways, the most common of which suggests that this was to distinguish Muslims from Jews at the time. Among the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a branch in Algeria, the beard must be short and trimmed.
Moustaches were very popular in Algeria until the 1980s. They have been disappearing slowly ever since president Chadli Bendjedid [in power between 1983 and 1992] shaved his off. At first, his choice came as a surprise and was mocked by some people because in Algeria, there’s an old saying that a man who doesn’t wear a moustache is a cuckold. But slowly, others started to imitate him: first his entourage, then some other important men, academics, intellectuals…
Today, the beard is fashionable, particularly among young men. They let it grow for a few days, shave it off and let it grow again. It’s not about religion; it’s just about aesthetics.