Swedish counter-terrorism police were called to reports of a group of “bearded men in dark clothes raising a black flag” who were mistaken as ISIS fighters by a member of the public.
But instead of ISIS members, police officers responding to the scene stumbled across a meeting of an international organisation of bearded men.
The Swedish chapter of the “Bearded Villains” met on Saturday for a photo shoot at the ruined castle of Braehus, with members posing with the organisation’s black-and-white flag.
Andreas Fransson, a Bearded Villains member and founder of Ratemybeard.se, wrote on Facebook later that the run-in with officers was “not what we set out for”.
Speaking to The Independent, he explained that it was the Swedish group’s turn to look after the organisation’s crossed-swords flag, and a special effort had been made to organise a photoshoot with it.
“After about an hour the police showed up,” he said. “They told us they got a call from someone driving past on the highway, saying that there were Isis terrorists at the ruins.
“The police saw of course that we weren’t terrorists, just very happy and nice bearded gentlemen,” he said.
Mr Fransson said it was “strange how people are so fast to react” to first appearances.
“We had a laugh with the police and they left,” he said. “It was a surreal experience.”
John Ekeblad, co-leader of the Swedish group, told Sweden’s Metro newspaper that while they laughed about the incident at the time, it highlighted the prejudices bearded men can face.
“It’s one of the foundations of our brotherhood, that you should not judge others before you know the facts,” he said. “It’s the same with beards – each and every day you hear someone say you are a terrorist.”