Penang Officials Won’t Punish Dog Adoption Event Organizers or Muslim Attendees

MY-dogs-620-March2015 Dogs from a Malaysian Police K-9 unit accompany officers on patrol in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 17, 2015.

Religious authorities in Malaysia’s Penang state will not act against organizers and Muslim participants of a stray-dog adoption drive held there earlier this month, although it offended some Muslim groups.

“Islam is universal and it preaches love to not only mankind but to all, including animals, environment and everything,” The Malay Mail quoted Abdul Malik Kassim, chairman of the state religious affairs committee, as saying in explaining the decision.

Authorities also will not punish a Muslim woman who was photographed holding a puppy at the same event, he added.

“In Islam, this is known as Rahmatar Lil’Alamin. In Islam, there are clear guidelines on how to do this,” he said.

Abdul was responding to a call from Rafizal Abdul Rahim, chief of the youth wing of the ruling United Malays National Organization (Umno) party in Penang, to investigate the four-day event at a mall in George Town that concluded on Sunday.

A local group called Save Our Strays (SOS), along with students from Han Chiang College, had organized the Opt-To-Adopt drive to encourage non-Muslims to adopt stray dogs so as reduce their numbers on the streets.

But a picture of the woman in a headscarf with the mongrel pup angered some Muslim groups, after the image was uploaded onto the Penang Kini community page on Facebook.

In Islam, dogs are widely seen as unclean creatures, and therefore taboo.

“We regret, and are disappointed and angry, and condemn the program because we feel there is a hidden agenda by certain parties after the ‘I Want to Touch A Dog’ program last year,” the state-run Bernama news agency quoted Rafizal as saying.

Hidden agenda?

In October, social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi had organized the “I Want to Touch a Dog” campaign in Selangor state.

Besides attracting volunteers and dog owners, that event drew many Malay Muslims, who took the opportunity to touch and interact with dogs and learn how to clean themselves after touching the animals.

That event sparked the ire of conservative Muslims, who argued that it countered Islamic teaching that compares canines to excrement, the Malay Mail reported.

Progressive Muslims, however, were quick to defend Azmi.

Some Islamic religious scholars, including former Perlis state Mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, counter-argued that if touching a dog was comparable to touching excrement, Muslim veterinarians, toilet cleaners and parents too should be deemed “haram” (prohibited) for coming in contact with feces while cleaning up their charges.

Eventually, however, Azmi bowed to pressure and publicly apologized for organizing the “I Want to Touch a Dog” event.

In Penang, SOS founder April Sham denied that the adoption program encouraged Muslims to touch dogs.

April demanded that Penang Kini apologize for linking the event to religion and tarnishing its efforts to raise awareness about stray dogs, Malaysiakini reported.

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.


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