In Western countries we don't think anything is wrong with having pets in our homes and loving them with a full heart. For hardline, conservative Muslims it is a different matter entirely. One man decided to challenge the view that dogs are "unclean" animals two years ago in Malaysia. Even though some Islamic officials declared that the "I Want to Touch a Dog" event was offensive to their faith. The whole thing became very controversial.
Image via PetGuide
Syed Azmi Alhabshi planned the unusual event as a sort of public service with the approval of the local Islamic Religious Council. Other religious and government authorities vehemently opposed the event, even declaring it offensive to Islam. Alhabshi began receiving insults and death threats over the idea of Muslims touching dogs. Even so, dogs were available for petting in October 2014 in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur and many people showed up to find out more about them.
Image via The New York Times
The day was kicked off with a talk by Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin on the religious view on dogs. Afterwards the crowd was instructed in Sertu or samak, the Islamic method of hand cleansing used after coming into contact with a dog. The event was color-coded to make the unusual event a bit easier for everyone involved. The dog handlers wore red. Those interested in touching the dogs wore yellow. And those who wanted to observe the event wore orange. This way people who were unsure about touching, or even afraid of dogs, would not be approached with a dog.
Image via Free Malaysia Today
Despite the detractors, the event was an unqualified success. It was a first step in getting Muslims in Malaysia past their fear of dogs and allow them to learn more about them. While the touching of dogs is not quite as controversial in other countries, there is still a divide on the subject within Islam. In 2013 a cleric in Iran demanded that walking dogs be outlawed in that country (click here for more info).
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Many more moderate Muslims in Malaysia are dog owners and love their pets dearly. Some have noted that many clerics and officials seem to be trying to get them to hate more and more things. Let's hope that they manage to remove dogs from the equation. After all -- what's not to love?
Image via Hype