'Provocative' dog-petting event testing Muslim patience, Utusan columnist says

An Utusan columnist says that viral images of Muslims petting dogs have caused great uneasiness and public discomfort and the ‘I Want To Touch A Dog’ event should not have been held in Muslim-majority Malaysia. — Picture by Choo Choy May
An Utusan columnist says that viral images of Muslims petting dogs have caused great uneasiness and public discomfort and the ‘I Want To Touch A Dog’ event should not have been held in Muslim-majority Malaysia. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 ― The “I Want To Touch A Dog” event should not have been held in Muslim-majority Malaysia as viral images of Muslims petting dogs have caused great uneasiness and public discomfort, an Utusan columnist claimed today.

Writing under the column “Coretan Marhaen”, columnist Marhaini Kamaruddin pointed out that there was no need to court “controversy” with such a highly-publicised event as Islam already had clear guidelines on the humane treatment of animals.

“Following this controversial campaign, I feel that it is not the negative perception Muslims have towards dogs which needs to be corrected but the negative perception non-Muslims have on why Muslims cannot touch dogs which needs proper explanation and comprehension.

“Unless we want to purposely cause provocation, there is no need for this type of campaign to be held,” the Utusan writer said in her column published by the Malay broadsheet today.

Marhaini said there was a difference between treating animals well and “purposely touching dogs” and in the case of last Sunday's event, the goal cannot justify the means.

“In Islam, what is haram is haram… Just because you supposedly want to correct negative perception of Muslims towards dogs it does not mean you can permit what is haram,” she added, saying that the event organiser should taken into consideration the “sensitivities” of the Muslim majority in Malaysia and not try to change or challenge it.

The Utusan columnist said that more important issues to be addressed in this country such as aiding the homeless, troubled teenagers and orphans.

“Let us hope that this will be the first and last campaign of its kind,” Marhaini said.

Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has said will conduct a thorough investigation on the organising of the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event that took place at Central Park, One Utama near Petaling Jaya on Sunday.

Jakim director-general Datuk Othman Mustapha said the programme should not have taken place and Jakim regretted the irresponsible attitude of the organisers who were not concerned with the sensitivities of Muslims in the country.

The “I Want to Touch a Dog” event organised by Syed Azmi Alhabshi drew nearly 200 volunteers and dog owners and where Malay Muslims were given the opportunity to pet the pooches, an animal that many of them regard as culturally taboo.

Former Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, however, disputed claims that touching a dog is “haram”, saying though not encouraged, Islam allows for Muslims to keep the animal for hunting and for protection purposes.

He reasoned that if it is considered “haram” to touch a dog because the animal is deemed unclean, like excrement, it would also be “haram” for Muslims to handle their own excrement or their children’s when cleaning them.

While the hadith says touching unclean things will reduce a Muslim’s “pahala” (reward for good deeds), the Islamic scholar said the act is not stated as a “sin”.