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Jewish World Review
Oct. 26, 2006
/ 27 Tishrei, 5767
Of Muslims and dogs
Former U.S. Ambassador Richard Carlson had a recent post on JWR's sister site Political Mavens, about Muslim loathing for dogs. In addition to the crowded but conspicuously dogless streets of Tehran, he cited the Saudi ban on dog ownership as well as the common cruelty to dogs and puppies that's rampant in every Arab nation, where man's best friend is routinely stoned to death, beaten and otherwise abused. The animal cruelty stories from Afghanistan, he wrote, "would turn your stomach."
Carlson recalled arriving at a wealthy Pakistani Sunni Muslim lady's home and an English Springer Spaniel greeting him at the door (the same breed that Carlson himself once had). When he asked the woman why she had a dog in the house, she answered, "We don't buy all that Muslim stuff against dogs and there are many Muslims who think like us…but here in Islamabad, and among the Arabs, dog lovers are a very small minority." While it would have been more heartening to hear that the woman had adopted one of the abused mixed-breed strays that are being killed around her rather than getting a pedigree that she most likely purchased, the hostess did offer a noteworthy insight: "The more unwashed they are themselves…the more they believe dogs are unclean."
This is an observation I've made myself over time. When walking my dog in New York, I'd notice that the lower the level of a person's existence, the more likely my dog was to get a dirty look. I saw it quite often from recent immigrants, in the country for 10 years or less; also from African street vendors; and from some homeless and/or disturbed individuals. (I also noted that sub middle-class American blacks didn't take kindly to dogs and were often terrified of them, but that middle class to wealthy blacks tended to have fluffy white dogs.)
But there was a real subtext to the recent immigrant's disdain for dogs, to the disgust on their faces which they never bothered to hide when observing the attention that Americans lavish on their dogs. I swear I read one woman's eyes saying, "My family could sure use the money she spends on that worthless animal." That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks: these people are in competition with our pets for Americans' resources.
Indeed, the higher you are on the human totem poll, the more magnanimous you are to god's "lesser" creatures. The lower you are, the greater your disdain for the "lesser." This dynamic was illuminated between the "po' white trash" and the blacks in Maya Angelou's book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Carlson sums up the Muslim world as it relates to dogs: "a society where kindness and compassion to lesser creatures, and to man himself, is in very short supply."
I always thought it one of life's great travesties that there are dogs in every corner of the world, no matter how depraved and how unworthy its humans are of their company. One of the hundred reasons that I don't engage in any world travel is the unchecked stray and neglected animal problem that other countries have. What happens to so many animals in America is disturbing enough, and it's the only country save for Canada and certain Western European nations that I have any standards for on this front. (With the exception of the Bronx, a third world country where dogs run loose and unfixed so they can impregnate other dogs until getting hit by a car, creating new generations of to-be-discarded-or-abused dogs. I don't know if the animals' reproductive habits reflect those of the residents, or if it's the other way around, but I do know that both of the dogs I've rescued and adopted were from the Bronx.)
But back to the most disturbing possible scenario: being a dog in the sadistic Muslim/Arab world. "The Koran says that you must wash anything seven times that has been touched by a dog and then wash it again with dust," according to the Carlson's Pakistani host. That's why it's so galling to a fundamentalist Muslim when a dog sniffs him for bombs at the airport.
The situation for cats in the Muslim world isn't good either, but it's not as bad, since Muslims, and the Koran, consider them to be cleaner, and so they are not as maligned as dogs. What we have, then, is essentially a whole society of cat men. That explains a lot.
Carlson's Pakistani friend in Tehran said that Muslims "think [dogs] are the devil." It makes perfect sense. The dog happy, warm, loyal, loving, honest, all-forgiving, free-spirited, grateful, non-judgmental and non-sadistic is the antithesis to Islam. Notice that in addition to dogs, America and Jews are considered to be the devil too. In other words, Muslims hate everything that makes the world just a little warm and fuzzy.
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