Thursday 31 July 2008 (27 Rajab 1429)

      Cats, dogs the new threat to morality
      Abeer Mishkhas | Arab News 
      Once again, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention 
of Vice misses its goals; it seems to get itself entangled in quixotic 
campaigns - all under the umbrella of fighting vice. The latest action from the 
commission is to ban the sale of cats and dogs in Riyadh. According to Al-Hayat 
newspaper, the reason behind the ban is a fatwa and the reason behind the fatwa 
is that some young men take dogs out into the street and use them to annoy 
families; the fatwa also points out that the ban aims to preserve public 

      Now I have to ask: How on earth can owning a pet be considered a risk to 
social codes and morality? The allegation that some people use animals to annoy 
families in public areas is ridiculous and surely unfounded. If someone were 
really harassing a family or another person in public, then there are ways and 
means and laws to stop such behavior. 

      A person can in fact use anything to harass people - mobile phones, the 
lights of his car, or loud music coming from his car. So are we going to ban 
the use of mobile phones in public? Or will we wake tomorrow to the news that 
young men are no longer allowed to drive in public areas? All I am asking for 
is some logic and reasonable thinking. And please stop the automatic reflex of 
banning things when someone thinks that those things are causing problems. 

      But when it comes to the banning of pets, there is also another way of 
thinking - one that considers animals dirty. We are told that the ban was 
issued in the wake of a fatwa against owning pets. 

      But we ask if it is better to keep pets at home where people can enjoy 
their companionship and can, at the same time, take care of them? Or is it 
better to have the animals roaming the streets where they may be a hazard to 
public health, as they might get sick and spread disease and germs and also be 
killed by speeding drivers?

      The way we are supposed to deal with animals is quite disturbing; we are 
being asked to shun them and let them roam the streets. It does not matter if 
such behavior does not make our hearts kinder or bring us closer to our Islamic 
ideals. It is shocking how such a ban contradicts evidence from Islamic 
teachings and Islamic history. 

      The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself is known to have given his food 
to animals and his companions cared for them. What about the Hadith that urge 
Muslims to be kind to animals?

      There is one which makes it clear that giving water to a thirsty dog won 
a place in heaven for one woman who was living in sin and another which speaks 
of condemning a woman for not feeding a cat she kept at home. Are we simply to 
forget those Hadiths and just think that animals should be ignored? 

      Is it not clear how we turn any problem into a prelude to a new ban. Some 
people are using animals to harass families and women. Does it then logically 
follow that animals should be banned? Knives are sometimes used to kill people 
so should all knives be banned? Should we not find out why some people use 
animals to harass others? No, as far as some are concerned, the easiest 
solution is simply to ban something. Banning is surely the most ineffective of 
all solutions. Usually a ban backfires and leads people to ignore it secretly.

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