At issue is Islamic -- or perhaps Arab -- attitudes about dogs. In a recent episode, newlywed Arab-American Shadia McDermott tells her new husband Jeff, an Irish-American convert to Islam, that she does not want his 16-year-old beagle, Wrigley, to move with them to their new home. She lists off reasons: her father will not pray in the house if a dog is there since the Koran teaches that dog hair is impure; "I wasn't raised with dogs," she tells him. "I'm not used to them." And her asthma is aggravated by the dog's hair.
So, Jeff reluctantly takes the dog that has been his constant companion for 10 years to an animal shelter.
More folks than PETA were upset by the episode.
"Wrigley has been the very best friend and companion," writes Cinty Marabito for American Pit Bull Examiner.
"This heart-wrenching episode ended with Wrigley left at a sanctuary. Wrigley was trying to follow Jeff and his wife as they pulled away. The last shot was the sad face of this little dog left alone and unwanted. Even though the wife didn’t want Wrigley, this poor dog was still trying to follow the car and return to the only home ever known."
And Marabito says Shadia is being less than upfront about why
the dog had to go.
"According to the wife, she had asthma and wanted to install new carpet, so the dog had to go," observes Marabito. "As she was laughingly posting Wrigley’s photos on telephone poles, she admitted she was not an animal person. She seemed quite healthy wandering around outside while posting the fliers, quite obviously unaffected by grasses, molds and other environmental elements which plague most allergy sufferers."
PETA is upset enough about the episode to send a letter to David Zaslav, the head of TLC, asking him to broadcast free of charge a PETA commercial featuring Muslim-Americans asking viewers to consider the words of the Prophet Mohammed: "All creatures are like a family of God; and He loves the most those who are the most beneficent to His family."
PETA's TV spot would inform viewers about a website devoted to Muslims and animal issues, and would feature Muslim-Americans discussing how their religious beliefs have influenced their decision to go vegetarian or to make a lifelong commitment to their companion animals — a commitment that many people with allergies have been able to make by toughing it out or taking medication. PETA's letter is signed by Hanif Akhtar, former president of the Pakistan American Business Association.
"Maybe if more American viewers realized that teachings of compassion for animals are common to all the major faiths — including Islam — they'd be interested in learning what else we all have in common," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "Promoting understanding is never a bad thing: An individual's race, religion, gender and species should not be a factor in deciding how to treat him or her."
PETA, of course, believes animals should have equal rights with humans. To deny them solely because they aren't humans is "speciesism" -- which PETA ranks right up their with racism.
An Arab and His Dogs, oil painting by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)
"So, what is the Islamic position about dogs?" asks Islamic scholar Ingrid Mattson in the Huffington Post. "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?
"These Muslims should remember that there are many other impurities present in our homes, mostly in the form of human waste, blood, and other bodily fluids. It is fairly common for such impurities to come in contact with our clothes, and we simply wash them off or change our clothes for prayer. When you have children at home, it sometimes seems you can never get away from human waste. But we manage it, often by designating a special space and clothing kept clean for prayer."
Some Muslims object to having a dog in the home, writes Mattson, "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 Koran states that angels are always present, protecting us and recording our good and bad actions."
In fact, writes Mattson, "there is no doubt that the Koran is positive about dogs." The Muslim holy book, for example, allows the use of hunting dogs." The Koran also tells the stories of a dog that protected righteous children who were running away from religious persecution, standing guard over them as they slept in a cave.
"This tender description of the dog guarding the cave makes it clear that the animal is good company for believers," notes Mattson.
However, there is a wide variance of opinion among Muslims, notes R. Cort Kirkwood, writing in the New American. "Muslims are suspected of poisoning dogs in Spain because of the Islamic teaching that such pets are unclean," he writes, citing a report from Soeren Kern, an analyst with the Strategic Studies Group based in Madrid.
Spanish authorities are investigating the recent deaths by poisoning of more than a dozen dogs in Lérida, a city in the northeastern region of Catalonia that has become ground zero in an intensifying debate over the role of Islam in Spain.
All of the dogs were poisoned in September, according to EuropaPress, were in Lérida's working class neighborhoods Cappont and La Bordeta -- districts heavily populated by Muslim immigrants. Local residents say dogs are regularly killed and that in the past several months, residents taking their dogs for walks have been harassed by Muslim immigrants who are offended by seeing the animals in public. Muslims have also launched a number of anti-dog campaigns on Islamic websites and blogs based in Spain. In response to the "lack of sufficient police to protect the neighbourhood," 50 local residents have established alternating six-person citizen patrols to escort people walking their dogs, according to the website Hudson New York:
"In July, two Islamic groups based there asked city officials to regulate the presence of dogs in public spaces so they do not 'offend Muslims.' Muslims are demanding that dogs be banned from all forms of public transportation including all city buses as well as from all areas frequented by Muslim immigrants. Muslims in Lérida say the presence of dogs violates their religious freedom and their right to live according to Islamic principles."