Trick Or Treat? 

The National Fatwa Council has declared the Halloween festival that traditionally falls on October 31 each year as haram, meaning it is forbidden for Muslims to celebrate Halloween.  Muslims are urged to pray for their own deceased instead.

“It Cannot Be Celebrated By Muslims”

A recent fatwa by the National Fatwa Council said: “The Halloween celebration is clearly against the values of Shariah.  It cannot be celebrated by Muslims”.

The National Fatwa Council gives its reasons for the fatwa:

1.  Because Halloween celebration is considered a Christian celebration of the dead.

2.  As such, Halloween celebration is against Islamic teachings.

3.  Instead of celebrating Halloween, Muslims should pray for their deceased instead.

Elaborating further, the fatwa said: “Halloween is celebrated using a humorous theme mixed with horror to entertain and resist the spirit of death that influence humans”. The fatwa added that Halloween  is now celebrated through costume parties, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, visiting haunted locations, pranks, and horror story-telling.

The fatwa added that if Muslims wanted to honor the dead, Islam suggests reciting “doa” (prayers) instead.

The Halloween Party That Caused The Furore

So what made the National Fatwa Council to issue this fatwa against celebrating Halloween? Apparently it started with a private Seremban international school that displayed banners extending invitation to all (including Muslim residents in the Negeri Sembilan township) to attend a Halloween event on October 31 this year.  This reportedly caused unease among Muslim residents.

Atheists

While the National Fatwa Council categorizes Halloween as a Christian celebration, Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) thinks it is an atheists’ plot.  Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, president of Isma, claimed that Halloween celebrations are organized by non-Muslims – very likely atheists – to shake the faith of Muslims and to turn them godless.

Alleging that atheists were behind Halloween events, Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman added that Halloween celebrations were also intended to spread atheism. As such, Isma demanded that the National Fatwa Council put a stop to Halloween celebrations.

Think About It

Did the National Fatwa Council get it right by categorizing Halloween as a Christian event honoring the dead? On social media sites, many netizens disputed this.  Or is Isma correct in that Halloween is an atheists’ celebration?  Or perhaps Halloween is a pagan celebration?  Which one is correct?

A Landmark Ruling

Women in Afghanistan have reason to celebrate a ruling made by a judge in Kabul who threw out a defence based on Sharia law, and instead enforced the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women that was ratified in 2009. The case involved the rape of a 10-year-old girl. The defendant was a person of authority – a mullah, no less – and he had raped the girl in his mosque.

Mullah’s Defence

The defendant, Mullah Mohammad Amin, had tried to invoke Sharia law, by which Afghanistan had long considered rape as adultery.  Some mullahs and officials in  Kunduz had earlier claimed that the girl was 17, but her mother said she was 10 and a forensic medical examiner estimated her age to be 10-11. The mullah’s two defence lawyers argued that under Sharia law, the mullah should receive 100 slashes for adultery and then be released.

Judge’s Reasoning

Judge Mohammad Suliman Rasuli, however, reasoned that the child’s young age made adultery implausible. Besides, if Sharia law were to be enforced, then the female should also be punished with 100 lashes as well. The judge said that the mullah’s admission of having sex with the 10-year-old girl was tantamount to an admission of rape.

He thus judged that the mullah had committed rape, not adultery, and sentenced the mullah to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Response To The Sentence

Women’s activists attending the packed proceedings hailed the judgment as a victory because of enforcement of the law meant to fight violence against women. The sentence was welcomed by Manizha Naderi, executive director for Women for Afghan Women (WAW). She vowed, “As long as WAW is alive and working, I will make sure that he spends the whole 20 years in prison”.

However, the girl’s father and uncle felt that Mullah Mohammad Amin should have been given the death penalty. Jamila Azizi of the Development and Support of Afghan Women and Children Organization thought likewise, pointing out that five men were hanged recently for raping women returning from a wedding. But the death sentence in that case was for the associated armed robbery, which is a capital offence in Afghan law.

A Not-So-Happy Ending

It seems that at the time of the incident in May, the child’s family had felt that the girl had brought dishonor to the family, and had been overheard contemplating killing her. However, through WAW’s efforts, they turned up for the trial in court and seemed to be supporting the girl. In fact, the family denied the reports of their plans for honor killing. The girl’s uncle, Mohammad Rasoul, had said, “She was raped and is a child, and if we killed her, how would we answer to God on the day of judgment?”

The girl’s father had also denied the report of intended honor killing. However, after the trial, he immediately left the court without so much as a look at her. She tried to go after him, but stopped when she realized he did not want anything to do with her, and just stopped and looked at him till he was out of sight.

Think About It

How could anyone think that a 10-year-old girl could be considered to be an adulteress? Will the judgment in this case influence future cases of rape in which adultery is used as a defence? How is the 10-year-old old likely to be treated by her family now, especially by her father? Will she be accepted in society? Is she safe from honor killing?

Scam With Many Victims

Mohammad Jawaid Mir had saved up for his last hajj pilgrimage and had paid a large deposit on a £7,590 hajj tour for his wife and himself. Mohammad Jawaid Mir is a 71-year-old British citizen who suffers from diabetes and chronic kidney disease. He fears that his weakening health will render future visits impossible.

However, Mohammad Jawaid Mir and his wife, like thousands others, are victims of hajj fraud. He had lost a sum of £3,795 in a scam that is believed to have tricked several others. There is little hope that those responsible will be brought to justice.

The Modus Operandi

Mohammad Jawaid Mir found a company online that was based in northern England that offered a 12-day hajj tour, inclusive of flights and accommodation – exactly what Mohammad Jawaid Mir was looking for. They made a £2,000 deposit and soon after, were told that they needed to make the full payment upfront, due to overbooking. However, no air tickets ever arrived and the agent was either making excuses or not answering. Mohammad Jawaid Mir was invited, via email, to attend an event in London where the flight tickets and vouchers would be provided. At this stage Mohammad Jawaid Mir felt uncomfortable and asked for his money back, but it never arrived.

Unreported Crime

Mohammad Jawaid Mir is not the only one. Muslims in Britain spend about $160 million a year on pilgrimages and thousands of citizens are believed to fall victim to fraudsters every year. However, many never report the crime.

There were 200 cases of hajj fraud reported last year in the UK. However, only 10 to 15 percent of people come forward. Another complaint is substandard accommodation. While promised 4 or 5-star accommodation, pilgrims often find themselves having to share a room with up to nine people. Others complain of different flights than promised.

High Non-Compliance Rate

The UK authorities are coming down hard on hajj fraud. They are proactively investigating those selling hajj package tours and find that the non-compliance rate is between 75 and 80 percent. Authorities have caught tour providers breaking the law on different counts, from not providing receipts or correct paperwork, to criminal acts such as not issuing Air Travel Organizer’s License (ATOL). In the last six months, there have been six prosecutions by legal services, with another eight incidents being investigated.

However the Association of British Hujjaj feels like not enough is being done to fight the crime of hajj fraud. They say that help is needed from government agencies and mosques. Mosques should educate members about such fraud and not advertising illegal packages. Perves of the Association feels that mosques are not playing their part.

Think About It

Why are there so little reports of such incidents? Is that because citizens feel that the authorities will not be able to do anything? How can the authorities prevent such incidents from happening further? Perhaps there needs to be more regulations and checks?

Why are there so many Muslims falling prey to fraudsters? Whose responsibility is it to prevent such fraud? Is the government responsible? Or perhaps mosques should recommend reputable travel agents? Or is it up to the individual to find a reliable agent?

“Moderate” 

Three Indonesians who are well known and respected in their respective professions spoke out recently to explain Indonesia’s version of Islam, which they consistently described as “moderate” during their discussion session. The trio comprised an Islamic scholar, a poet, and a comedian. They explained what Indonesia’s version of Islam was about and how it was unlike Islamic fundamentalism.

The panel was attending a writing-cum-reading festival and speaking under its heading of “Understanding Islam”.

Indonesia Is Different

Azyumardi Azra was the first to address the audience. The university don explain that Indonesian Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of the population, differed from that elsewhere including the Middle East. He pointed out that “the absolute majority (of Indonesian Muslims) is moderate, and has been used to living with adherents of other religions peacefully for centuries without any bloodshed”. He admitted there were cases of religion-relate conflicts, but pointed out these were isolated cases and their underlying causes were political in nature.

Azyumardi Azra also advocated religious plurality, citing his objection to the implementation of the Sharia law in Indonesia. In his analysis, the Islamic hardliners imported their ideology from elsewhere; it was not native to Indonesians.

The professor hastened to add that while Indonesian Islam is “colorful and flexible”, it was by no means less Islamic or disloyal to compliance with Islamic practices.

On the Islamic State (“IS”), Azyumardi Azra highlighted that “it is basically a Middle Eastern Islamic phenomenon, not from Indonesia where Islam is accommodative and peaceful”.

An Islamic Liberal

For poet and writer, 70-year-old Goenawan Mohamad, being Muslim was also about being pluralistic and moderate. Like Abdurrahman Wahid, a former Indonesia president and a leading cleric, he strongly believed that “faith is not like a fortress”, hard and cold. He also disapproved of IS, describing the murderous organization as “a threat for everyone, not only for Muslims, because they kill people”.

Locally-Bred Fundamentalists

The third panelist, Sacha Stevenson, also expressed her concern about Islamic conservatism. Her worries, though, came from much closer proximity, in the shape of the home-grown and legitimate Islamic Defenders Front. She took comfort, though, in the fact that “hardliners are a minority here, despite their having a loud voice”.

Sacha Stevens divided Indonesian Muslim into three groups: the liberal Muslims who were educated, hardliners who formed a minority, and the majority. The last group might wear traditional Muslim attire, but would do so more for culture than religion reasons.

Think About It

To a world that is deeply disturbed by Islamic fundamentalism, the words and views of the three panel speakers are no doubt comforting and re-assuring indeed. Hopefully, there will be more moderate Muslims to speaking up, so as to counter the propaganda of the fundamentalists and promote inter-religious harmony and peace.

Niqab Out

A woman wearing a niqab was thrown out of La Traviata during the second act after a singer spotted her in the front row and refused to sing. Since 2011, there has been a ban on Muslims covering their faces in public in France. There have been instances where women living in the outskirts of major cities such as Paris have been fined. However, this is the first time someone has been thrown out of an artistic venue.

Uncover Or Leave

The woman’s remains unnamed, but she is believed to be a well-off woman from the Gulf State. She was attending the performance with a friend when a security guard asked her to either uncover her face or leave the auditorium.

Jean-Philippe Thiellay, director of the Bastille Opera said that it was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady had to either respect the law or leave. Many other opera fans however, were not impressed. Some felt that a lady sitting quietly in the audience could not possibly do any harm and thought that the manner in which the lady was dealt with was not tolerant. They felt that the woman was humiliated and security should have been more tolerant.

National Topic

The incident is becoming a national topic. The woman now faces a fine of just over 180 pounds. However there is no evidence of any police involvement. She and her friend were also not refunded for their tickets.

The Ministry of Culture has said that it was producing a new set of rules to ensure enforcement of the face veil ban in public institutions. They also promised to toughen up their laws. There are five million Muslims residing in France and France was the first European country to ban full face veils in public places.

Think About It

Why are there so many breaches of these rules despite them being the law? And shouldn’t the theatre have been more responsible and stopped the lady from entering before the show began instead of in the middle of the opera? Perhaps the government needs to think of harsher penalties for breaking this law if Muslim women keep ignoring the law? And why do the same issues keep resurfacing? Why do incidents such as these always seem like an attack on Muslims when it is simply about obeying the laws

“British Values”

A successful Christian school was warned that it has been downgraded by inspectors by excluding leaders from other religions, such as an imam, to lead its assemblies. They might even risk facing closure.

The school breached new rules that hope to promote “British values” such as individual liberty and tolerance. These new rules were set as a result of the Trojan Horse scandal which involved infiltration by hard-line Muslim groups in Birmingham.

Rating

The new rules are in place to fight extremism are already having huge consequences for religious schools. There have been complaints from Jewish schools about how, upon inspection, girls have been questioned on whether they are being taught about lesbianism, whether they have boyfriends, or if they knew where babies came from.

Schools can have their rating downgraded if they fail to meet standards that do not actively promote harmony between different religions because it had failed to bring in representatives from other religions. The school has to show how it was going to meet new requirements or be subject to further inspections, which could lead to closure.

Challenging The New Rules

The Christian Institute is planning on challenging the new rules, saying that the new rules are being used to regulate teaching of anything deemed politically incorrect. It is not enough to take students on excursions to different places of worship. Inspectors from Ofsted are required by the new rules to behave in ways that do no conform to the religious beliefs of schools. Deputy director of the Christian Institute said that they are infringing the rights of students, their families, and teachers to practice their own beliefs.

Interestingly however, while there have been Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools criticized by Ofsted, no Muslim schools have been downgraded for failing to invite Christian leaders to their assemblies.

Think About It

Why would religious schools want to invite leaders from other religions that are so different to their own to lead assemblies? Wouldn’t parents who choose to send their children to a Christian school want their children to learn Christian values rather than be influenced by Islam or any other religion? Is the government trying to be too politically correct that they are trying to cater towards Muslim or homosexual groups? And why does it appear that the rules are biased towards these minority groups? Why have no Muslim schools been downgraded yet?

Sounding The Alarm

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti has sounded the alarm about the increasingly popular Twitter, describing this social media as “a source of lies and falsehood”.

Explosive Growth

The Global Web Index says that Twitter usage in Saudi Arabia enjoyed explosive growth over the past few years and that such growth has hit the current level of 51% penetration.

The reason behind this explosive growth is the high levels of mobile internet usage.  Currently about 60% of users in Saudi Arabia now access the internet by their mobile device.

Another source, the Dubai School of Government, said that 29% of all tweets coming from the Middle East originated from Saudi Arabia.

Twitter came into prominence during the Arab Spring where it became an essential tool in helping activists organize the protests in 2011.

Objections

Speaking on his television show “Fatwa” which airs on Mondays in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh explained why he objected to Twitter.

1.   The first reason for his objection is that Twitter is being exploited for trivial matters.  Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said: “If it were used correctly, it could be of real benefit, but unfortunately it is exploited for trivial matters”.

2.   The second reason for objecting is that Twitter is “the source of all evil and devastation”. Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh puts it this way: “People are rushing to it thinking it’s a source of credible information but it’s a source of lies and falsehood”.

3.   The third reason for objecting is that Twitter enables opposite sexes to freely communicate without restrictions, something not allowed in Saudi Arabia.

Twitter Employees Threatened

Twitter employees have reported threats made on their lives on social media.  According to Twitter’s CEO, his staff have received multiple death threats from jihadists on Twitter.  These jihadists are said to be affiliated with the Islamic State.

Grand Mufti

Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh has incredible influence within Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim community.  He is appointed by the King of Saudi Arabia and he is regarded as the ultimate fatwa authority in the kingdom.

Think About It

Is it possible to control Saudis from using Twitter?  With the kind of explosive growth seen in the past few years, it seems that Saudis are not going to abandon Twitter.  How much influence will Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh have in persuading Saudi social media users to quit Twitter?  So why then did the Grand Mufti attempt to do so?  What interests is he trying to protect?

Death Sentence Stays

Asia Bibi became the first woman to be sentenced to death in 2010 purportedly for committing blasphemy.  She had maintained her innocence, claiming that she was framed by a Muslim woman.  Now a Pakistani court has dismissed her appeal and her death sentence thus remains.

About The Purported Offence

It all started in 2009.  46-year old Asia Bibi was working in Punjab as a berry picker then.  She is a Christian. While working, Asia Bibi became thirsty.  She drank water from the glass of her Muslim colleague. This infuriated the Muslims who considered her, a Christian, as “unclean”. An argument ensued. Hours later, one of the Muslim women reported Asia Bibi to a local cleric, claiming that this mother-of-five had made disparaging remarks about Prophet Mohammed during the quarrel.

Asia Bibi puts it this way: “‘I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using ‘their’ cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.  I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers”.

Based on this allegation, Asia Bibi found herself and members of her family beaten by an angry crowd.  Asia Bibi was eventually arrested and charged in 2010 with blasphemy for which the penalty is death.

The Appeal

In court, Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Naeem Shakir, argued that that the witnesses had contracted themselves, and that the case was really one that arose from a dispute between neighbors.

Naeem Shakir noted that 2 witnesses for the complainant did not appear in court. However a prayer leader did appear in court, but he said that he was not a witness, except that Asia Bibi had confessed in front of him.

Naeem Shakir said: “I was expecting the opposite decision. We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days.  I have a very strong case, I am sure the Supreme Court will provide us with relief. There is no concrete evidence against Asia Bibi, and the courts are only relying on the statement on those two women”.

Gulam Mustafa, lawyer for the complainant, reacted this way: “Asia Bibi’s lawyer tried to prove that the case was registered on a personal enmity but he failed to prove that”.

Reactions

Kate Allen, UK Director of Amnesty International said: “This is the latest blasphemy outrage to come out of Pakistan. It seems obvious that this is a case of religious persecution, and it’s very likely the result of a squabble which escalated out of all proportion. Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan are often used to settle petty vendettas and persecute minority groups. It’s a complete disgrace that the courts are complicit in these vendettas”. Amnesty International later issued a statement saying: “Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place - still less sentenced to death – and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening”.

A spokesperson for Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: “Asia Bibi’s sentence is a tragic reminder of the continued abuse of the dysfunctional blasphemy laws and the underlying weaknesses in Pakistan’s justice system. Deeply-rooted problems of prejudice, inefficiency, corruption, and under-resourcing are amplified in blasphemy cases, and even more so for religious minorities. The only hope she has for justice is when the case is heard in the Supreme Court.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying: “Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should use the power granted to him under Pakistan’s Constitution to end Asia Bibi’s nightmare of years of imprisonment and the threat of a death sentence by pardoning her and repealing or reforming the country’s blasphemy law to prevent such tragic mockeries of justice from occurring in the future”.

But there are also those who agreed with the court’s decision.  Cleric Qari Saleem said: “I am very happy at the decision of the court, and justice has been done”.

About The Blasphemy Law

Pakistan’s blasphemy law does not actually define what constitutes blasphemy.  Moreover, evidence of blasphemy crimes might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.  And to make matters worse, there are no penalties for false accusations.

Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law in the light of Asia Bibi’s case were shot dead. One of them was Shahbaz Bhatti, then Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs, who is a Christian himself.  He opposed the blasphemy law and recommended that Asia Bibi be released from jail. For that Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in 2011 by the Pakistan Taliban who claimed responsibility for the murder.

The other politician to be killed for supporting Asia Bibi and who spoke out against the blasphemy law was Salman Taseer, then governor of Punjab province.  He was shot dead by his own security guard.

Phelim Kine, spokesman for Human Rights Watch said; “Asia Bibi’s case is an example of how Pakistan’s vaguely worded blasphemy law has led to discrimination, persecution and murder since its imposition almost three decades ago”.  He described the court’s decision as a “disgrace to Pakistan’s judiciary”.

Think About It

Should the blasphemy law be reviewed or even abolished?  What kind of law is it when the words that are purportedly blasphemous cannot be repeated in court because doing so will open that witness to a fresh charge of blasphemy?  For an offence that carries the death penalty, why is there no penalty for making a false accusation of blasphemy against another person?  How is an accused going to defend himself under such circumstances?

Previous posts

Pakistan – Asia Bibi’s Lawyers And Human Rights Activists Receive Death Threats
Pakistan – Punjab Governor Assassinated Over Blasphemy Law
Second Pakistani Politician Assassinated For Criticism Of Blasphemy Law
Effect Of Punjab Governor’s Assassination On Asia Bibi

Recommendations By Muftis, Academicians And Professionals

So PAS (Islamic Party of Malaysia), which rules the Malaysian state of Kelantan since 1990, is dead serious about introducing Hudud in the state.  And now, the state technical committee on the Syariah Criminal Code II Enctment (Hudud) has made its recommendations on how to implement and enforce Hudud in the state.

Recommendations

Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan, deputy chairman of the state technical committee on the Syariah Criminal Code II Enaction recently released details of the recommendation by his committee on how to implement and enforce Hudud in Kelantan.  Among the recommendations by the committee comprising muftis, academicians and professionals are the following:

1.   Medical doctors will not be used to carry out amputations of limbs of offenders under Hudud punishment.

2.   The actual amputation of limbs will not be carried up at hospitals.

3.   The Kelantan state will train people to be proficient in amputating limbs of offenders under Hudud punishment.

4.   These trained professionals will be appointed by the Sultan of Kelantan specifically to amputate limbs of offenders and nothing else.

5.   The venue for amputating limbs will be at a fully-equipped place to be set up by the Kelantan state government.

The above recommendations came out of a two-day muzakarah (discussion) on how to carry out Hudud punishments attended by muftis, academicians and professionals.

Guidelines

Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan said concerning the recommendations: “The proposals will serve as a guideline for the state government when implementing the Hudud laws”.

Explaining the decisions concerning doctors and hospitals, Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan said: “It was also suggested that the sentence be carried out at a place other than hospitals as hospitals are a place for healing, not to carry out sentences”.

Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan also explained that medical specialists at the meeting felt that doctors are bound by their professional body’s code of ethics and regulations and they should thus not be involved in the amputation work.

Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan added: “It was recommended that the job be carried out by trained professionals appointed by the sultan. Their duty will be to carry out the amputations and nothing else”.

Think About It

Syariah (Sharia) law, including the amputation of limbs under Hudud punishments, is applicable to Muslims only.  Is it fair to implement Hudud in places where there are non-Muslims?  So for example, if a Muslim is convicted for the crime of robbery, the Hudud punishment is the amputation of limbs (hands).  The same offence committed by a non-Muslim will merit a fine or a prison term (or both) under the civil court, but no limbs will be amputated.  Similarly a Muslim convicted of adultery face the prospect of being stoned to death under Hudud punishment.  But a non-Muslim offender for the same offence does not get stoned.  How does the Kelantan government (PAS) reconcile this seemingly discriminatory punishment between a Muslim offender and a non-Muslim one?

1,000 Turned Up For Event

Pharmacist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, organizer of the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, was pleasantly surprised when 1,000 people turned up at the event on Sunday morning.  He had expected only 60.  And the majority of those who turned up were Muslims. This has now turned out to be one of the largest impromptu events organized in just three weeks.

Touching Dogs

One participant, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki, brought her 4 children to Central Park in Bandar Utama, Selangor so they and she can overcome their fear of dogs. Like many Muslims, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was brought up thinking touching dogs is haram.  Speaking at the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “It is also to show that touching a dog is not haram. People are worried about touching the dogs more as it’s a sin instead of worrying about the biggest sins”.  Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was a former religious teacher.

Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said that her ustaz husband gave her permission to attend this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event.  Describing that moment, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “I wanted to jump for joy when he said ‘yes’ and I told my children they had to go. And all of them came today with me to overcome their fear and to learn that dogs are also creatures created by Allah that need love and care. I am still scared of big dogs so I am touching the small ones first”.

22 year old Nik Farhana Nik Othman said: “I am curious, that is why I am here. I touched a few. I never had a chance like this before. I grew up in Kota Baru and I study at the International Islamic University Malaysia. My parents don’t know that I am here but my friends are very supportive”.

23-year old housefwife Fatimah came dressed in a full black veil with only her eyes visible.  she said: “I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs, about ‘samak’ and ‘sertu’ cleansing. I’ve never done such a thing before”.

Children had a field day touching dogs.  7-year old Nur Aliyah Mohd Nasir who touched at least 12 dogs said: “I am very happy. I touched many dogs and carried them. My favourite is the Husky”.

Pet shop owner Aaron Choo, 25, said: “I’m very happy to see Muslims so eager to learn about and touch the dogs. I really do hope events such as these continue and I’m very happy to participate again”.

Overwhelming

Syed Azmi Alhabshi reacted this way when 1,000 people turned up: “We only expected 60 but this is way more than 60. This is overwhelming and I hope I provided enough water for the dogs and apologise for any shortcomings”.

Did Syed Azmi Alhabshi touch a dog?  He said: “I wanted to touch a Husky but I was so busy”.  But he did manage to touch a few dogs for the first time in his life. Dog owners had brought Husky, German Shepherd, Doberman, Golden Retriever and Poodle to the event. There was even a purebred sleek-haired Afghan hound.

33-year old Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin,  a religious teacher and Masters student at UTM’s Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (Casis) was on hand to give talks on touching dogs in Islam.  He said: “Dogs are also god’s creatures. We need to overcome the mentality of seeing the animal as an offensive creature. Teach the young to love others but at the same time know the limit of touching one”. Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin added: “This is the first time I’ve given a religious talk to many non-Muslims. I’ve always wanted to try giving dawah (preaching) through an urban approach. It’s a wonderful experience”.

Describing the event, Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “This is just a baby step for us. I don’t know whether people will now understand not to throw stones at dogs but we want people to know that if they are not knowledgeable or are curious about things, they should just ask. If we ask nicely, people will respond. I didn’t expect to see so many Malays today. I didn’t expect many people to come in yellow or orange. I didn’t expect the kids. Having the kids here is the best thing ever. We are doing this for them”.

Protest Galore After The Event

Datuk Othman Mustapha, director-general of the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (Jakim) said: “This event has never been held previously and is the first time being exposed to the community. We are Muslims and our religion has stated clearly the penalty regarding dogs. Jakim will investigate the matter immediately and any action will be referred to the existing provisions”.

Jakim has now issued a fatwa against touching dogs.  Citing Prophet Mohammad, the fatwa said the Prophet ordered that containers which had been used by dogs to drink from were to be washed, which showed that the tongue, saliva and mouth of dogs were unclean. It then asked: “If the tongue and mouth are categorised as unclean, then of course the rest of its body is also unclean. Furthermore, dog saliva is created from its own sweat, and if the sweat from its mouth is unclean, then the sweat from the entire body is also unclean. Touching dogs or pigs without pressing reasons is haram. This act is called ‘Al-Tadhammukh Bi Al-Najasah’ and is defined as something which is forbidden to be done without need such as saving a hunting dog from a fire”.

The fatwa said that Muslims cannot keep dogs as pets, but it added: “However, Islam has given a few exemptions from this definition and allows dogs to be kept for hunting, herding of goats or in  orchards or fields. But to make dogs into tame companions which live under the same roof as their masters, Islam does not allow it and it is not a necessary situation which is exempted”.

Animal lover Iskander Lazarus said Muslims still have to “abide by the National Fatwa on keeping and rearing dogs, which at the moment is prohibited. These are laws of the religion for Muslims, so it has to be observed. This campaign was to educate people to care for dogs that are injured or hurt. It is a good awareness campaign that also tells Muslims on how to cleanse themselves after caring for a dog but it is not encouraging the Muslims to go against the Fatwa”.

Over at the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), Selangor Mufti Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “No approval was given on our part to hold the ‘touch-a-dog’ program. The program was being held by an individual on his own initiative. We are not clear what was the justification. It is under the local government’s purview to approve, not the religious authorities”.

When told that Jakim is investigating this event, Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “Congratulation on their initiative. At least people will realise that it is not advisable (for Muslims) to touch dogs”.

PAS deputy youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abd Hadi, son of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, said: “Instead of campaigning to touch a dog, it would be better if they campaigned about taking care of an orphan. The Prophet Muhammad once said that anyone who strokes the head of an orphan would receive plenty of reward for each strand of hair stroked. Instead of learning about how we should stroke a dog’s back, why not we learn how to cleanse our feet during wudhu (ablution) without taking off the layer of clothing”.

But former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin disagreed that it is haram to touch dogs, saying: “If it is haram to touch najis (filth), then it is also haram to touch one’s own excrement or that of children or others in your care when cleaning them. It would also be forbidden to do any work which involves najis, like cleaning toilets or dealing with blood or pus (both considered najis). The same can be said of veterinarians. So to rule that (touching dogs) is forbidden is a shallow ruling. It is thus not forbidden to touch dogs”.

Think About It

What message is being sent when 1,000 people turned up for this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event?  Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said she was brought up in the belief that touching a dog is haram.  How many other Muslims are also in this position?  Why are protests coming out now after the event, when the organizer had talked about it 3 weeks earlier?  Did Jakim and the other protesters expect a very low turnout at this event and were caught by surprise?  So now, the final question.  Who is right?  Is it haram to touch a dog?

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