An Army appeals court will hear arguments Thursday about an issue that has indefinitely postponed the murder trial for the suspect in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation: his beard.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, has appealed the trial judge’s order that he will be forcibly shaved before his court-martial unless he shaves himself. Maj. Hasan, a psychiatrist, argues that the order violates his religious rights.

The American-born Muslim has said he grew a beard because his faith requires it and that he believes dying without a beard is a sin.

Maj. Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others at the sprawling Army post, which is about 130 miles southwest of Dallas. His court-martial was set for August, but all court proceedings in the case have been put on hold as the beard issue goes through the appeals process.

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