by Enza Ferreri 10/25/14
Malay Muslims have discovered dogs: • KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — A group of Muslims get acquainted with a dog at the ‘I want to touch a dog’ event at 1Utama’s central park earlier this morning. Around 200 dogs and their owners volunteered for the event, which sought to break cultural norms against dogs among Malaysia’s majority Malays.
The video on the Malay Mail Online website quoted above is a mixture of people who surround a dog as if they’d never seen one in their entire lives, and other people who wash their hands after having touched a dog, considered by Islam an “impure” animal. In a photo, some participants even wash their feet (don’t ask me why).
From an article on the same Malay paper:
Being able [sic] take her two dogs to a public event attended by fellow Malay Muslims was liberating for Rina Z, who has been caring for dogs for the past 12 years.
As a lady in a hijab cautiously bent down to pet her dog, Kirby, Rina reminisced over the disapproving stares fellow Malays would shoot at ‘tudung’ — the local term for hijab — wearing women walking an animal that is culturally considered “haram” [sinful, forbidden].
“I have a friend who wears a ‘tudung’ who helped walk my dog, and this woman just went up to her and started questioning her; ‘You are a Muslim? You are a Muslim?’ And then she went on and on lecturing her on how it’s not right (for a Muslim to handle dogs),” Rina said.
“Being a Muslim dog owner, you tend not to publicise the fact that you own dogs because you run the risk of becoming a social outcast… but I think it’s time to share the love,” she added, as Kirby meekly sought out his owner for reassurance among the deluge of people stopping by to touch him.
The event was organised by Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who just desired to touch a dog, and we all know that the best way to do that is to stage a mass gathering of dogs and their human companions in your city’s central park: otherwise how on earth do you ever get to see a dog, let alone touch him? It stands to reason.
The great pioneer Alhabshi is shown in a picture while he’s realising his great ambition and touching a dog for the first time in his life, while the dog looks positively terrified (dogs apparently have an instinct for spotting mental disorders in humans).
Still, Alhabshi is to be praised for doing his bit for introducing Muslims of Malaysia to dogs.
In fact, he’s a real martyr for a good cause (I’m not joking here), as for his ‘I want to touch a dog’ event, part of his charity work, he’s received death threats and accusations of apostasy by many fellow Muslim-Malays online:
The Malays, furious at his audacity in organising an event to educate the public on Islam’s stance on dogs, have circulated his mobile number online, while on WhatsApp, messages claiming he is a Christian in disguise have spread like wildfire.
Once easily reachable through his phone or Facebook, Syed Azmi has now gone virtually underground, but on Facebook, his friends, family and neighbours in Taman Tun Dr Ismail have been responding to the threats on his behalf.
However, the threats, most of them posted as comments to a Facebook post by Ustaz Mohd Kazim Elias, which condemned the event, are numerous and filled with hate.
Here’s a little taste of a few of them:
[T]his organiser cannot differentiate between what is right and wrong, has a shallow understanding of religion and likes to destroy Islam and should be stoned to death…
Let me give the organiser a beating so that he can gain some reason…
I hope this cursed person dies from dog bite.
But I like this most:
Another Facebook user, Yusoff Hj Ashaari, said that on top of taking action against Syed Azmi, the public should find the women who posed with the dogs at the event, and pull of [sic] their scarves to see if they wore crucifixes or were concealing tattoos. “Ustaz, this organiser really is a dog,” said Han Khalief.
I like it because it shows that, while we in the West don’t realise how much we owe to Christianity, people in non-Christian parts of the world well realise that. In this case love for animals is associated with Christianity. True, what these people have in mind may just be the suspect, however absurd, that Christians are trying to undermine Islam by subverting its precepts on dogs.
But there is much more than that, as demonstrated by the fact that an animal welfare movement only developed in the Christian part of the world.
Animal welfare and love for animals developed from the compassion inspired by Christianity.
If we – or some of us – don’t attribute the ending of the practice of animal sacrifices and respect for animals in general to Christianity, in the other parts of the globe they do:
The practice [of ritual slaughter of animals] is now far less universal than it was once, and in Christian countries it is generally looked upon as one of the basest expressions of primitive superstition. There is, for instance, hardly a book written to defend the “civilizing” role of the white man in India, which does not give publicity to that gruesome side of Hindu religion, through some bloodcurdling description of the sacrifices regularly performed in the temple of the goddess Kali, at Kalighat, Calcutta.
You will want to know how the story ended. Was our martyr stoned to death? No, or at least not yet.
“With a sincere heart, my intention to organise this programme is because of Allah SWT and not to memesongkan (distort) the faith, change religious laws, make fun of ulamas (religious scholars) or encourage liberalism,” he told the media today.
Ah, and don’t forget – although you may be forgiven for forgetting – that Malaysia is a moderate Muslim country.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, author, and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica. She is in the Executive Council of the UK’s party Liberty GB. • (958 views)