A report entitled, Muslims Declare Jihad on Dogs in Europe, was recently published by the Stonegate Insitute. It announced, “A Dutch Muslim politician has called for a ban on dogs in The Hague, the third-largest city in the Netherlands,” as reported by the Amsterdam-based De Telegraaf newspaper (January 28, 2012.)
“Islamic legal tradition holds that dogs are "unclean" animals, and some say the call to ban them in Holland and elsewhere represents an attempted encroachment of Islamic Sharia law in Europe,” wrote Soeren Kern, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid Strategic Studies Group.
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Three days after the Stonegate Report appeared, an update was posted on another site, advising that, "Hasan Küçük, fraction head of the Islam Democrats in the Hague, denies the party wants to ban dog ownership in the city. He says his words were taken out of context.”
Although Küçük’s clarification of his statement is consoling, Soeren Kern’s article has not been retracted and it cites a number of other examples of conflicts between Muslims and Europeans over dogs which are very enlightening but disturbing, but need to become a topic of global discussion between Muslims and dog lovers.
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Kern points out that Muslims in The Hague now make up more than 12% of the city’s population of 500,000. According to the De Telegraph report, at The Hague City Council meeting, the Party for the Animals presented a proposal to make the city more dog friendly, which was adamantly opposed by Turkish-Dutch representative Hasan Küçük of the Islam Democrats. Küçük's response caused Paul ter Linden, the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) representative on the City Council, to respond: “In this country pet ownership is legal. Whoever disagrees with this should move to another country.” Kern reports that dozens of philosophical and physical Muslim-vs.-dog situations have occurred in Europe and signal a developing trend across the Continent.
Kern states, “Critics say it reflects the growing assertiveness of Muslims in Europe as they attempt to impose Islamic legal and religious norms on European society.” He cites recent dog-related controversies reported in European countries that appear to demonstrate the growing discord surrounding this issue. In Spain, two Islamic groups based in Lérida—a city in the northeastern region of Catalonia, with about 29,000 Muslim residents--asked local officials to regulate the presence of dogs in public spaces so they do not “offend Muslims.”
Muslims demanded that dogs be banned from all forms of public transportation, including all city buses and public areas frequented by Muslim immigrants, which make up about 20 % of Lérida’s population, the report states. This was based on a claim that the canine presence violates their religious freedom and their right to live according to Islamic principles. Kern writes that, “After the municipality refused to acquiesce to Muslim demands, the city experienced a wave of dog poisonings. More than a dozen dogs were poisoned in September 2011 in Lérida’s working class neighborhoods of Cappont and La Bordeta, districts that are heavily populated by Muslim immigrants…”
Muslim immigrants have also harassed local residents taking their dogs for walks and a number of anti-dog campaigns on Islamic websites and blogs based in Spain have been launched, he writes. Britain has become “ground zero” for Europe’s canine controversies, according to the Stonegate report, to the extent that blind passengers are being ordered off buses or refused taxi rides because Muslim drivers or passengers object to their “unclean” guide dogs. In another example, Kern reports that an elderly cancer patient was asked to get off a bus because of his assistance dog and faced hostility regarding the animal at a hospital and in a supermarket.
Among other incidents cited in the report is the allegation that, in Stafford, a Muslim taxi driver refused to carry an elderly blind couple from a grocery store because they were accompanied by their seeing-eye dog; and a London bus driver refused to allow a blind woman to board with her dog because there was a Muslim lady on the bus who “might be upset by the dog.” When the woman complained, the doors closed and the bus drove away.
She tried to board the next arriving bus, but was stopped-- this time because the driver said he was Muslim. Also in Britain, police sniffer dogs, used to detect explosives and trained to spot terrorists at train stations may no longer come into contact with Muslim passengers following complaints that it was offensive to their religion, Kern explains.. The Transport Department reported that the animals should only touch passengers’ luggage because it is considered “more acceptable” and British Transport Police handlers are instructed to be more aware of “cultural sensitivities.”
Sniffer dogs used by police to search mosques and Muslim homes are now being fitted with leather boots to cover their paws so that they do not offend. Muslim prisoners in Britain are provided fresh bedding and clothing after the dogs search their cells to avoid charges of religious discrimination. The inmates say their bedclothes and prison uniforms must be changed according to Islamic law if they have come anywhere near dog saliva, Kern writes, and prisoners are provided special bags to protect any religious articles, including any copy of the Koran.
The Stonegate Institute report presents similar and even much more complex incidents in France, Scotland, and Norway, highlighting what may be a prophetic, high-profile discrimination lawsuit against 72-year-old Marie Laforêt, one of France’s most-beloved singers and actresses, who was accused of discrimination against Muslims in 2009 in an Internet advertisement for someone to perform work on a terrace at her home. Laforêt specified that “people with allergies or orthodox Muslims” should not apply “due to a small Chihuahua.”
A complaint was filed by the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP). Laforêt explained in a Paris courtroom that the stipulation was intended to be a sign of respect because she “believed the Muslim faith saw dogs as unclean.” Her attorney contended that his client “knew that the presence of a dog could conflict with the religious convictions of orthodox Muslims.”
But Muslims rejected her defense, according to the Stonegate report. Another, more detailed account of the legal action against Laforêt is contained on Jihad Watch on December 4, 2011. In that version, her attorney, David Koubbi stated, "To think that Marie Laforêt is racist is just stupid," adding that the star "has always shown her interest and admiration for the Muslim faith."
When religious traditions and modern culture conflict over the mere presence of “man’s best friend,” can there be a peaceful resolution? Do efforts by European Muslims to ban dogs in many venues foretell an expanding clash between the rights of religious conviction and the “rights” of canine companions and their humans? The Associated Press reported on March 3 that Americans spent $50.96 billion in 2011 on services, accessories and necessities for their pets.
This introduces into this issue the power and motivation of profit in a burgeoning pet industry. Increasingly restaurants are providing areas where Bowser can join in outdoor dining and many hotels now welcome four-legged guests. Will lawsuits and legislation be the tools used to stop such practices that may offend the Muslim population or restrict their right to equal enjoyment of public/privately owned areas? Who will prevail in a war between ancient doctrine that prohibits even physical contact with dogs and a society where they are considered treasured family members