July 2, 2008

A new storm of controversy seems to be emerging today, as the police force in the UK apologised after complaints that an advert featuring a German shepherd puppy might have been offensive to members of the local Muslim community.

British media has been consumed with the story ever since Tayside Police used a picture of 29-week-old black puppy Rebel on postcards promoting the force’s new non-emergency telephone number, and then apologized after the choice of image was questioned by a Dundee councillor who said it would “not be welcomed” by some communities.

First of all, I must say I keep on getting impressed with how tolerent this country is, I mean for the police to first of all consider such a trivial matter, and then actually apologize for it… that says a lot.

I also appreciate the fact that after a certain series of events that happened lately, including particular ones which involved Danish cartoons, a certain teddy bear in Sudan and a controversial debate about the veil,  one should be very careful with what many of us might consider as ‘trivial matters’, as what might seem silly on the surface could cause serious unexpected harm in the end of the day.

Any how, I can’t seem to stop myself from shouting: COME ON!!!

Am I the only Muslim who is wondering what could possibly be offensive about a picture of a puppy?

I am not blaming the police force or the long-lasting traditions of tolerance and fairness in this country, especially when it comes to cultural sensitivities… and I really can’t blame it on people being ignorant when it comes to Islam as well, as one can’t seem to know what is considered offensive and what isn’t these days!

I can only blame the ‘members of the Muslim community’ who have reportedly complained about the picture, the British media went on to explain that a”Muslims consider dogs unclean and Islamic tradition warns Muslims against contact with dogs because they are seen as impure”.

I have to say, I am quite familiar with the texts and  religious teachings relating to dogs; I do know they are considered ‘unclean’ and in fact I do agree that they aren’t.

This is probably why we are urged to wash our hands 7 times after getting in contact with a dog (that was however before the invention of sprays, shampoos and a whole set of accessories that are used today to clean dogs, I would like to read what modern day Islamic thinkers’ take on the issue would be).

However, there are no teachings that consider images of dogs offensive to Muslims. Not only that, but there isn’t anything that considers images of even the much dreaded pig as offensive to Muslims as well (only a teaching that prohibits eating its meat).

So, I think everybody needs to relax… if indeed members of the Muslim community have complained about this incident, I think they should re-examine their priorities.

What I think is truely insulting is the standard of living many of this community live in, the lost opportunties and the continuous ammunition we are giving racists and extremists to attack us with (just have a look at some of the tabloids today… this story beautifully complements previous ones about Muslim doctors who refused to see female patients in need, and a Muslim taxi driver who wouldn’t allow a blind man to enter the cab with his dog, which are both very shameful incidents and require urgent action to see why some people could interpret religion this way, if the reports were true of course).  

On the other hand UK institutions shouldn’t be apologizing for such a silly thing, but for allowing a part of its people to live in a condition whereby they feel they are always being targeted, to the extent that they feel threatened even by a cute and innocent puppy.


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