Walk your dog at a mosque day? - updated 9/15/12

Walk your dog at a mosque day?

by Sheila Musaji

Those who are determined to spread hatred and divisiveness continue to come up with ways to express their bigotry.  Garibaldi of Loonwatch reports that  a group called Hindu Canadian Advocacy are organizing on Facebook a “walk your dog in front of the mosque day,” to be held on September 14th, in front of the Salahuddin Mosque on 741 Kennedy Road, between 4:30pm and 7:30pm to correspond with prayer times.  This particular “event” is supposedly to protest the arrest of Allan Einstoss, a Canadian Jewish man who brought a 165 pound English Mastiff wearing an Israeli flag around its neck to stir things up at an al-Quds day event in Toronto and was subsequently arrested after some sort of altercation. 

This plan is being publicized and promoted on many websites, and even white supremacist sites like Stormfront are discussing participating or having their own walk your dog in front of a mosque day, perhaps on September 11th, and perhaps at other mosques in the U.S. and Canada.  The participation of such groups is a serious concern and should prompt the leadership of all mosques to carefully consider how to handle such a situation in a calm and dignified way.  I know nothing about this particular Canadian mosque except that in the listing on Salatomatic it is described as a “Sunni/Salafi” mosque.  Salafi’s and white supremacists might be a very bad combination.

This idea that Muslims hate dogs, and therefore bringing your dog to a mosque or a Muslim gathering is a good way to show Muslims what it means to be an American (or Canadian) has come up numerous times.

Before getting into a history of this claim, I would like to encourage the leadership at this Canadian mosque (as well as the leadership of any mosque where such an event is planned) to react by offering nothing except kindness to those protesting.  Perhaps offer them flowers, or dog biscuits and water for their animals.  Clearly, the Islamophobes engage in such activities in the hopes that at some point they might provoke a reaction from someone that can be used to further their narrative about irrational and violent Muslims.  We saw how the reaction of some young people at the Dearborn Arab Festival was twisted in this way only a few months ago.

In 2010 there was a protest against a proposed Temecula, California Mosque where protestors were asked to “bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voice on Friday” to protest in front of a local mosque during prayers.  I wrote about this in the article Temecula Mosque Protest: Of Dogs and Roses in which I noted

News reports said that there were about a dozen protestors and at least 50 people who came to support the mosque.

One of the protestors explained the low turnout of people protesting the mosque this way “He said the low numbers of protestors is because those who oppose the mosque are afraid for their safety.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that there was a tense moment “A member of the center created a stir when he and his wife tried to hand out roses to the protesters, with many refusing to accept the home-grown flowers.”

I’m sure they refused to accept the roses because they were afraid for their safety - perhaps they would be stuck by a thorn, or perhaps those crafty Muslims had planned ahead and bred special dangerous roses just to give to unsuspecting non-Muslims.  Just like the Muslim demographic plot and all the other what everyone knows nonsense about Islam and Muslims. 

You can see a local news video about the protest here.

This group of protestors called themselves “we the people”, but they seem not to have read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  Perhaps, if they come back to protest again, the Muslim community should hand them roses and a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America.  Muslims are a part of “we the people”.

During the All-American Muslim incident, I wrote All-American Muslim and Wrigley the Dog in which I noted

The fact is that the issue of whether or not it is permissable to keep dogs as pets, or to keep them in the house is complicated.  There are not only many different religious interpretations about this, but also many different cultural norms among Muslims from different countries.  So, it is an Islamic issue, and also a cultural issue, and in this particular case also a health issue.

There are Muslims who keep dogs, and Muslims who don’t.  Both have strong opinions, and it is a hotly debated issue.  This episode of All-American Muslim was discussed within the Muslim community.  Dr. Ingrid Mattson (who is an Islamic scholar) wrote an article What’s Up With Muslims and Dogs? in which she said in part

After watching “All-American Muslim” for a few weeks, I now believe that the show is good for our community beyond the way it might lessen prejudice against Muslims. The additional benefit is that the show has engaged our community in discussing some of the many challenges we face making distinctions between critical religious values and flexible cultural practices. In the fourth episode, the issue of Muslims having dogs in the home came up, and this is worth further discussion.

...  So what is the Islamic position about dogs? In fact, there are a variety of opinions according to different legal schools. The majority consider the saliva of dogs to be impure, while the Maliki school makes a distinction between domestic and wild dogs, only considering the saliva of the latter to be impure. The question for Muslims observant of other schools of law is, what are the implications of such an impurity?

Some Muslims object to having a dog in the home because of a prophetic report that angels do not enter a home with dogs in it. If a Muslim accepts this report as authentic, it still requires an analysis of context to determine its meaning and legal application. Ordinary people are not recipients of divine revelation through angelic messengers, so it is possible that this statement, although in general form, might suggest a rule for the Prophet’s home, not all homes. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact the Qur’an states that angels are always present, protecting us and recording our good and bad actions.

Whatever the implications of this report, there is no doubt that the Qur’an is positive about dogs. The Qur’an allows the use of hunting dogs, which is one of the reasons the Maliki school makes a distinction between domestic and wild dogs - since we can eat game that has been in a retriever’s mouth. But most compelling is the Qur’anic description of a dog who kept company with righteous youths escaping religious persecution. The party finds shelter in a cave where God places them in a deep sleep; the Qur’an (18:18) says:  You would have thought them awake, but they were asleep And [God] turned them on their right sides then on their left sides And their dog stretched his forelegs across the threshold.

This tender description of the dog guarding the cave makes it clear that the animal is good company for believers. Legal scholars might argue about the proper location of the dog - that he should stay on the threshold of the home, not inside - but home designs vary across cultures. In warm climates, an outdoor courtyard is a perfectly humane place for a dog - its physical and social needs can be met in the yard. This is not the case in cold climates, where people stay indoors most of the day for months at a time.

Extreme concern about the uncleanliness of dogs likely arose historically as Islam became more of an urban phenomenon. In medieval cities, as in modern cities in underdeveloped countries, crowding of people and animals leads to the rapid spread of disease and animal control is not a priority. A few run-ins with an aggressive or diseased animal can result in excessive caution, fear and negativity.

The issue of Muslims and dogs has also come up in relation to some Muslims (primarily from Somalia and Pakistan) who have refused to allow guide dogs in their place of business or even taxis.  This is discussed at length in the article Pamela Geller, Guide Dogs, and Genocide in which it is noted that

As to the issue that set off this tirade - Muslims who serve the public refusing service to people with guide dogs - that has happened.  There needs to be a clear statement issued by scholars in the U.S. and Canada clarifying this, and that statement needs to be widely distributed and discussed in mosques.  The problem is that many immigrants confuse cultural and religious beliefs, and some are not aware of the law. 

This process has begun, and Muslim scholars are attempting to educate people, but to avoid any such difficulties in the future, this needs to be much more widely discussed.  Here are a few examples of community efforts to educate:

In 2008, the issue of service dogs came up in England and a fatwa  was issued

“The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association described the decision as “a massive step forward for other blind and partially-sighted Muslims”. Previously, all dogs were banned from mosques because the Islamic faith historically sees them as being for guarding and hunting only. However, the position was softened because guide dogs could be classed in the “working dogs” category. The animals are still barred from entering the prayer hall for the sake of hygiene but are allowed to guide their owners to the area where shoes are placed, the fatwa says.

A special rest area has been set up in the entrance of the Bilal Jamia mosque for Vargo while Khatri is praying. Previously, the teenager, who attends the RNIB College in Loughborough, had to be accompanied to the mosque by a sighted helper. “

...  After issuing the fatwa, Muhammad Shahid Raza, director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK and secretary of the Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK, said: “I hope that all existing mosques will follow Bilal mosque in serving the disabled people in a similar way by providing facilities to them. I also believe that, in all new mosques, such facilities for disabled people will be an essential part of their design.”

You can see a video about this here

In a case in Minnesota, the local CAIR-MN chapter issued a statement

The moral and legal need to accommodate individuals using service dogs far outweighs the discomfort an individual Muslim might feel about coming into contact with a dog, which is one of God’s creatures, said CAIR-MN Communications Director Valerie Shirley.

Muslims believe the saliva of dogs invalidates the ritual ablution performed before prayer. For this reason, it has become a cultural norm for individuals not to have dogs in their houses – not because the dog is unclean.

The Prophet Muhammad allowed the use of dogs for protection and for hunting. He related several traditions (hadith) in which individuals were rewarded by God for protecting animals and punished for mistreating them.

Shirley mentioned that in 2007, a similar misunderstanding took place between Minneapolis cab drivers and passengers with guide dogs. After CAIR-MN facilitated dialogue between the two groups and cleared the misunderstanding, the Muslim taxi drivers offered free rides to attendees of the American Council of the Blind Convention in downtown Minneapolis. Abdinoor Ahmed Dolal, owner of Twin Cities Airport Taxi, said “Islam forbids us to turn away a blind passenger, whether they have a guide dog or not. Their rights come first.”

CAIR-MN says it will continue to work with the Muslim community in Minnesota to educate them about their Islamic and legal duty to accommodate those using service or guide dogs.

In another case in Vancouver, Canada a local Imam issued a clarification

An Iman from the local Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre, Javed Jaffri, researched the dog topic and served as an expert witness for a blind man refused passage by a Muslim taxi driver. Jaffri spent long hours on this, and provided an unbiased interpretation of the Koran that indicated “there is nothing saying that one must refuse service to another person because of the fear of contamination by a dog.”

He also said that “there can be exceptions to blanket refusals to deal with dogs, especially if it means helping someone in need. All that would be required in most circumstances would be for a Muslim person to wash their hands before eating if they have been in contact with a dog. That’s not a terrible task to go through,” he said.

Here is more from Garibaldi at Loonwatch

Aside from “Muslim cultures” what does Islam have to say about dogs? Does it hold them to be demons as the Islamophobes make out? The answer is an obvious no.

Traditional Islam generally prohibits Muslims from keeping dogs as pets, mostly to do with the fact that the saliva of a dog invalidates a Muslim’s ablution (though the Maliki school of jurisprudence disagrees with this). Muslims are allowed of course to keep dogs if they are farmers and shepherds, also permitted are guard dogs, hunting dogs and guide dogs (interestingly medieval Baghdad Muslim scholars were the first to note the possible utility of guide dogs).

The fact that traditionally Orthodox Islam did not allow Muslims to keep dogs as pets did not mean however that Muslims were encouraged to be cruel to dogs as Islamophobes would have it. In fact, the opposite is true, Islamic tradition encourages compassion and care be meted out to all of God’s creatures, including dogs! In a famous hadith (narration), the Prophet Muhammad related the story of a prostitute who was forgiven her inequities because she gave water to a thirsty, dying dog,

A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that. (Bukhari, 4.55.538)

Strange isn’t it? If Islam was so opposed to dogs wouldn’t Prophet Muhammad have condemned this woman, instead of highlighting her deed as virtuous and righteous? The Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ali Gomma spoke about this very hadith and how it was the inspiration for, and reason why for centuries in Old Cairo the religious authorities put into place a special endowment for the upkeep of watering fountains specifically for dogs!

The Muslims used the concept of continuous charity and charitable endowments to have mercy not only on other human beings but others from the creation whether it be animals or whether they be plants…In the old archives of the endowment documents we found a document entitled “The Endowment of Mercy”…when Muhammad Bey Abu Dhahhab built and established his mosque in Cairo he placed around the minarets large containers full of seeds so that birds in the environs of the mosque could come and feed. In every street in Cairo there would be what is called “The drinking places for dogs,” they would be small bowls along the street that passing dogs could drink from because the Prophet told us that there was a woman who entered hell because of a cat that she had imprisoned and denied food to and another woman entered paradise because of a dog she found who was thirsty and who she gave drink to

For anyone who has read and is familiar with the Qur’an there is in the 18th Chapter (“The Cave“), the story of the Companions of the Cave. The Companions of the Cave were a group of persecuted believers who fled their city because of the tyranny meted out against those who believed in “One God.” They sought refuge in a cave on the outskirts of the city where they fell asleep. According to the Qur’anic narrative they were made to sleep for over 300 years. Amongst their number was a dog.

There is an oft cited claim that the Prophet Muhammad ordered all the black dogs of Medina be culled because they were “evil” and or “devils” in the form of animals. Traditional Islamic scholars and scholars today are of the consensus that such reports are fabricated, and are actually related to pre-Islamic Arab mythology.

According to a generally unaccepted Sunni tradition attributed to Muhammad, black dogs are evil, or even devils, in animal form. This report reflects the pre-Islamic Arab mythology and the vast majority of Ulema (Muslim jurists) viewed it to be falsely attributed to Muhammad.

“There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you. Qur’an 6:38.

“The Holy Prophet told of a prostitute who, on a hot summer day, saw a thirsty dog hovering around a well, lolling its tongue. She lowered her socks down the well and watered the dog. God forgave her all her sins (for this one act of kindness)”  Sahih Muslim, and Bukhari 4.55.538

UPDATE 9/15/2012

Emperor at Loonwatch reports

An update to a previous feature we wrote about anti-Muslim groups organizing a” Canada: Walk Your Dog in Front of the Mosque Day” protest, it has turned out to be a miserable failure. Only 20 demonstrators showed up with about three dogs. They were greeted by a few Muslims who brought their own dogs, as well as other Muslims who engaged them in conversation.

The biased anti-Muslim news network the Toronto Sun reports that,

 A much anticipated dog walk protest outside an east-Toronto mosque Friday turned out to be a hopelessly neutered event.

Around 20 demonstrators turned up outside the Salahuddin Islamic Centre for the Walk Your Dog in Front of a Mosque protest.

... Around 20 humans and three dogs – two retrievers and a pomeranian — turned up for the two and a half hour event and converged at the entrance of the mosque, located on Kennedy Rd. south of Eglinton Ave. E.

Hindu nationalist and promoter of anti-Muslim violence Ron Banarjee blamed the low turn out on the “weather and traffic,”

“We wish we had a better turnout, but there were extenuating circumstances,” said organizer Ron Banerjee, citing traffic and rain for the poor attendance.

It seems some of the protesters are still under the impression that only Westerners are kind to animals and tolerant of other people,

One Catholic demonstrator turned up with his pomeranian.

“Being kind to animals and being tolerant of other people shouldn’t be limited to the West,” he said.

Muslims at the mosque were of course bewildered by the protest, saying they don’t see the point, except to cause “friction” between communities,

A group of Muslims belonging to the mosque — men dressed in long thobes and women in burkas – met the demonstrators.

Tabasum Hussain, a Muslim woman, called it pointless.

“I don’t really see the benefit or what it’s supposed to achieve, other than cause friction,” said Hussain, who claims to have had dogs as pets. “There is nothing in Islam to say that we should ill-treat dogs.”

Towards the end, one Muslim arrived with two friendly Siberian Huskies. All the while, both sides bickered about religious and cultural differences, at several points reverting to name calling.

Funny how the Toronto Sun tries to equivocate and say both of these groups are equally at fault. They do point out that there was a rabid anti-Muslim at the event though they characterize Eric Brazou as “anti-Islamist,” I don’t think he makes a distinction,

The event also attracted its share of rabid anti-Islamists. Eric Brazau, a convicted felon once arrested for allegedly harassing a group of Muslim women, turned up to make “a stand.” “If we look at what is happening around the world today … how is it that we can say that there is no problem with Islam?” he said, referring to recent attacks on U.S. embassies in countries such as Libya and Sudan.


A Fatwa on dogs, Khaled Abou El Fadl http://www.scholarofthehouse.org/tloofesfaond.html

Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity, Ikhwan al-Safa http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/books_the_animals_lawsuit_against_humanity

Bigotry Fail: Plan To Harass Muslims With Dogs At CA Rally Collapses http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/08/bigotryfail_planned_rally_to_harass_muslims_with_d.php

Animals in Islam, al-Hafiz B.A. Masri, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/7368/an1.htm

“Christian? Missionaries?” Bring Message of Hatred to Arab Festival, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/dearborn-festival

“Dogs in the Islamic Tradition and Nature”, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl http://www.scholarofthehouse.org/dinistrandna.html

Pamela Geller, Guide Dogs, and Genocide, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/pamela-geller-guide-dogs-and-genocide

Islam and Experiments on Animals *, al-Hafiz B.Z. Masri http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islam_and_experiments_on_animals1

Just Who Is Dharminder Kumar, Creator Of The “Walk Your Dog In Front Of Mosque” Facebook Event?, Gord Macey http://www.torontopetdaily.com/2012/08/just-who-is-dharminder-kumar-creator-of.html

Misconceptions About Islam and Dogs http://misconceptions-about-islam.com/dogs-allowed-muslims.htm

Quotes from Qur’an and Hadith about dogs as service animals http://toledomuslims.com/criterion/Article.asp?ID=288

Showing kindness to all creatures:  lessons from an Azhari scholar and a cat http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/character/showing-kindness-to-all-creatures-lessons-from-an-azhari-scholar-a-cat/

Things That Make Me Go Grrrrr…..Allan Einstoss Bringing His Dog To “Stir Things Up” At A Queen’s Park Rally, Gord Macey http://www.torontopetdaily.com/2012/08/things-that-make-me-go-grrrrallan.html

What’s Up With Muslims and Dogs?, Ingrid Mattson http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ingrid-mattson/whats-up-with-muslims-and_b_1144819.html

Why I Watch ‘All-American Muslim’, Ani Zonneveld http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allamericanmuslim/

originally posted 9/4/2012