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Blind Muslims with guide dogs
October 10, 2008 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Blind Muslims with guide dogs. Dogs are usually considered unclean, but one U.K. imam carried out research and determined that a dog in service to, or trained by, a person could be allowed in a mosque.

The dog’s owner is interviewed on the show (BBC In Touch). The dog has his own kennel inside the mosque, and not everyone in the congregation is wild about it.
posted by joeclark (44 comments total)

 
Blind Muslims with guide dogs

I love that band.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:06 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of "research" as applied to this topic. It's not research, it's a guy reading through centuries of myths, opinions, and arguments then finding the bits he finds most palatable to him and that will support what he wants anyway.

Imagine someone in a long white lab coat with thirty hamsters, thirty terriers, and thirty officially trained guide dogs, situated outside of various open-door mosques, with inflatable pads just inside. Grad students and animal handlers mill about nervously.

"2008-10-10, 9:00 a.m. Terrier #25 loaded into catapult. The hamsters went through perfectly, aside from that, ah, mis-aiming event ... sorry Mr. Fuzzy. And here we go - *arf* *whack* *whimper*. The terrier is not allowed inside the mosque. Good thing they're little. Called Aziz for help loading randomly-selected Shepherd #18 in the catapult. Despite training, the dog appears to know something is up and ... *fling* *poof* — the blue force field of the Almighty covering the door sparkled and LET THE GUIDE DOG THROUGH! My grant is secured! Tenure track here I come! Bite me. Professor Smithers, that chair is mine!"
posted by adipocere at 7:06 AM on October 10, 2008 [11 favorites]


Does the blind Muslim have to have a tattoo on his forehead?
posted by srboisvert at 7:11 AM on October 10, 2008


is this like the lassie with a distinctive voice?
posted by infini at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2008


[Not Terrierist]
posted by Wolfdog at 7:33 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's not research, it's a guy reading through centuries of myths, opinions, and arguments...

And finding that there are things in that corpus that support his case. This is a type of law we're talking about after all.

Even in science and technology, there are cases where "we do our research in the lab, not the library" types have spent half a million dollars to build something their company could have bought for a fifth as much, so I'd argue for a quick sci-finder or pub-med scan before you start ordering reagents and equipment and stuff.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:33 AM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is a type of law we're talking about after all.

Sure, a law based on superstition and fairytales, I'll buy that.
posted by mattholomew at 7:38 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whoa, mattholomew, are you saying that you don't like religion? You just blew my fucking mind.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:55 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sure, a law based on superstition and fairytales, I'll buy that.

A good portion of our law is based on superstition and fairy tales, too. Why is this post such an affront to you? I think it's very interesting, and I'm an atheist.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:01 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


So stupid question...

Are cats the preferred pets in the Muslim world? Iguanas? Ant farms?
posted by rosswald at 8:11 AM on October 10, 2008


I think its admirable that this particular imam went out of his way to try to help his congregation even though it was fairly untraditional. That's what (religious) leaders are supposed to do.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:14 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


cats, at least the majority of the Malay households I saw while growing up in Malaysia, all had a bunch of cats and kittens
posted by infini at 8:15 AM on October 10, 2008


A good portion of our law is based on superstition and fairy tales, too. Why is this post such an affront to you? I think it's very interesting, and I'm an atheist.

Fair point, but that doesn't make those portions of our law acceptable either. I'm an atheist too, which is why I see Christianity, Islam, Wicca and other delusional practices based on metaphysics in the same light.

I wonder if this Holy man spent any time finding passages to support ending the widespread subjugation of women in the Muslim world?
posted by mattholomew at 8:19 AM on October 10, 2008


Are cats the preferred pets in the Muslim world?

My (Muslim) husband grew up with several pet dogs in his (Muslim) country, so I guess it's not entirely across the board. He had a pangolin too though!
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:22 AM on October 10, 2008


A good portion of our law is based on superstition and fairy tales, too.

Um, like what?
posted by alexwoods at 8:22 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


A good portion of our law is based on superstition and fairy tales, too.

Um, like what?


I believe that was a reference to things like anti sodomy or gay marriage laws.
posted by mattholomew at 8:24 AM on October 10, 2008


Um, like what?

The one about murder?
posted by Leon at 8:28 AM on October 10, 2008


Muhammad is supposed to have been a fan of cats, and even had a pet cat, Muezza. There´s a nice story about Muhammad hearing the call to prayer and going to fetch a robe to throw on, but finding Muezza asleep on the robe´s sleeve. Rather than disturb her, he snips off the sleeve and goes to prayer in a one-armed robe.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Why not a guide horse?
posted by god hates math at 8:43 AM on October 10, 2008


On the one hand, hurray for the Imam trying to bring a bit of sanity into the issue. On the other hand, boo for a religion where an exception for guide dogs wouldn't be a matter of course.

I'm trying to imagine the conversation on the side opposed to this: "Yes Bob, I know you need the... ugh... dog to get around, but they're *unclean* so I'm thinking you should just stay out of the Mosque. Yeah, yeah, I know it means you'll burn in hell forever. Hey, don't blame me, these are God's rules we're talking about not mine; anyway if you didn't want to burn in hell you shouldn't have been born blind. Sheesh man, show some responsibility."

Still, its a start in the right direction. I do wonder if this will have any impact whatsoever in places with more conservative Imams, and I'm thinking it sounds unlikely.
posted by sotonohito at 9:05 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Muhammad is supposed to have been a fan of cats, and even had a pet cat, Muezza. There´s a nice story about Muhammad hearing the call to prayer and going to fetch a robe to throw on, but finding Muezza asleep on the robe´s sleeve. Rather than disturb her, he snips off the sleeve and goes to prayer in a one-armed robe.

Thus, Istanbul is full of adorable, suspiciously-well fed and socialized street cats. It's like a White Bike program, but for kittens.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, boo for a religion where an exception for guide dogs wouldn't be a matter of course.

It is a matter of course in Islam to grant such exceptions. Also, the Maliki madhab is routinely much more lenient in dealing with dogs. I'm frankly kind of surprised that these British Muslims are allowing this to be made into an issue.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:30 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just about all American law is grounded on a set of propositions considered to be axiomatic and built around a chain of precedent. Where there certainly are secular arguments as to why it's a good thing to consider murder a taboo, those arguments depend on a set of assumptions are are not themselves ironclad.

But yes, while it would be nice if religious people stopped believing in religion, its not going to happen, and I don't see the point in turning our noses down on people who try to make a more liberal set of ethics out of their religion. Because as Christopher Hitchins shows, just because one is an atheist doesn't mean one can't be an unapologetic bigot and sexist.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:01 AM on October 10, 2008


If a dog is too unclean to be used a service animal, then that's too bad. Perhaps dogs are too unclean to be used as rescue animals as well.

I fully support religious people's right to shoot themselves in the foot. I do not support the right of anyone to shoot others' feet.

Personally I find people who don't tolerate dogs suspect. I am somewhat bigotted and unapologetically ethnocentric on this issue. I have no desire to yield on this. And, while we are on the subject, dogs have souls. So there. :P
posted by Xoebe at 10:59 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm an atheist too, which is why and I see Christianity, Islam, Wicca and other delusional practices based on metaphysics in the same light.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2008


On the one hand, hurray for the Imam trying to bring a bit of sanity into the issue. On the other hand, boo for a religion where an exception for guide dogs wouldn't be a matter of course.

I'm trying to imagine the conversation on the side opposed to this: "Yes Bob, I know you need the... ugh... dog to get around, but they're *unclean* so I'm thinking you should just stay out of the Mosque. Yeah, yeah, I know it means you'll burn in hell forever. Hey, don't blame me, these are God's rules we're talking about not mine; anyway if you didn't want to burn in hell you shouldn't have been born blind. Sheesh man, show some responsibility."


Read Leviticus lately? (Men with disabilities are not allowed into the priesthood. Yeah, yeah, the old law is obsolete, except the parts certain people favor.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:49 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sure, a law based on superstition and fairytales, I'll buy that.

Actually, most of the laws about animal cleanliness arose due to practical problems of animal cleanliness. Kind of like Jewish anti-pork edicts reflected actual problems with pork consumption at that time. It's only later on when people become literal minded about practical advice mixed with religious belief that these things take on additional the faith symbolism and become badges to wear.

Likewise British Muslims worry about this more because they are living in an overtly Christian country. The symbols mean more when you are a minority. I know this because I am a Canadian living in the UK and Kraft Dinner is now far more important to me than it ever was in Canada.
posted by srboisvert at 11:54 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


No dogs allowed.
All dogs accompanied by a blind person will be considered cats.

Sign in a British club as quoted by James Gosling
posted by jouke at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


that's No Indians or Dogs allowed
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2008


This thread is a good illustration of the Metafilter attitude toward religion. Christians = stupid, Non-western religion = hold still while I patronize you to death.
posted by mattholomew at 12:28 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well IIRC the concept that dogs are unclean does not extend to all dog breeds. Indeed many of the sighthound breeds like afghans, salukis, etc are retain a particularly high value in the Arab world (particularly among Bedouins). I'm not certain of their status among non-Arab muslims. So it stands to reason that dogs are typically accepted based on their perceived utility to the community.

I would think that using sighthounds as guidedogs might be a good way of bypassing the prejudices of community members. They might not be seen as the optimal breeds for the task but it might open communities to greater acceptance of the role of dogs as service animals.
posted by vuron at 12:36 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would think that using sighthounds as guidedogs might be a good way of bypassing the prejudices of community members. They might not be seen as the optimal breeds for the task but it might open communities to greater acceptance of the role of dogs as service animals.

Yeah, that's definitely crossed my mind, but as a Greyhound owner, I certainly wouldn't want to entrust my life to one. I'm pretty sure she'd spend most her time guiding me to wherever her nearest bed was.

My previous comment about guide horses was serious - that site isn't a joke, and guide horses are considered to be better than dogs in some situations. They live longer (up to 35 years), for one, so the ROI is much higher. Additionally, the human doesn't have to to re-acclimate to a new guide every 8-10 years, but rather, may only need 2 guide horses over the course of his/her life. And, well, they're not considered unclean by Muslims. Which would seem to be convenient in this situation.
posted by god hates math at 12:57 PM on October 10, 2008


mattholomew: This thread is a good illustration of the Metafilter attitude toward religion. Christians = stupid, Non-western religion = hold still while I patronize you to death.

Nonsense, I feel exactly the same way regarding Ken Miller's attempts to reconcile evolutionary biology with Catholicism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:59 PM on October 10, 2008


Q: Why use a mini horse as a blind guide?

A: Better acceptance - Many guide dog users report problems getting access to public places because their dog is perceived as a pet. Most people do not associate a horse as a pet, and Guide Horse users report that they are immediately recognized as a working service animal.

I find all the other bullet points effective arguments, but if you were to stroll in to a Walgreens with horse someone washed on warm, regardless yellow service saddle, you're probably gonna get stopped.

That said, I would love to cruise into a outdoor bluegrass festival on my fuel-efficient SmartHorse and then insist on ADA seating and a hay bucket for my extra set of eyes. Sadly, I would not be able to see the looks on their faces, as I would be blind.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:12 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


mattholomew wrote This thread is a good illustration of the Metafilter attitude toward religion. Christians = stupid, Non-western religion = hold still while I patronize you to death.

I can't say I've seen a lot of that. Since most of us are American with a sizable minority of Europeans and a scattering from the rest of the world I'd say that most of the atheist MeFites (and, while I don't know for sure I'd wager atheists are a minority here) rag more on Christianity simply because its the immediate threat.

Speaking for myself, I find all religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Wiccianism, Communism, Free Marketism, etc to be about equally stupid. Some do more harm than others, and some are more of an immediate threat than others, but I think they're all equally stupid.

Angels in caves, Thetans in starships, talking snakes, it all looks about the same to me.

While I feel more immediately threatened by Christianity (given that its the main source of theocracy in the USA and I'm American), I'll admit that Islam's even-worse-than-Baptist treatment of women is a point that particularly infuriates me.
posted by sotonohito at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2008


Well, the problem is that atheism on its own is politically meaningless. Not having a belief in God in no way dictates your political or social philosophy. While I disagree with the theology of feminist Wiccans, engaged pacifist Unitarian-Universalists, and environmentally-friendly Buddhists, I still consider them to be much better political bedfellows than the fearful jingoism of Christopher Hitchins, or the me-first libertarian ethos of Randoids.

If a person wants to construct their religious beliefs and practices in a way that is feminist, or in this case, more friendly towards people with disabilities, then I don't feel justified in sneering at them.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:51 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the subject of religion and its contributions to civilization, morality, etc it should be noted that in the Israeli city of Acre there was just now a full scale riot [1].

Why? It was Yom Kippur, and during Yom Kippur Jews are not allowed to do "work" [2]. Those starting the riot saw a non-Jew driving a car (which apparently *is* work, but riding bicycles and rioting isn't work), and the strong sense of civilization and morality granted by their religion left them with no choice but to start a giant riot that eventually required the police to break up.

Its good to know that religion is around to safeguard our morals. Why, if it hadn't been for religion I'd have thought rioting because someone drove a car would be wrong.

KirkJobSluder True 'nuff. I still maintain that so-called "moderate" religion encourages and produces extremist religion, but I've got no problem working with moderate religionists. And, in real life, I'm not anywhere near as snarky as I am here.

[1] As opposed, I guess, to a half scale riot.

[2] In scare quotes because the religious definition of "work" doesn't mean what most people would think it means. Flipping a light switch is work, but apparently rioting isn't despite the fact that I'd imagine rioting involves more sweat.
posted by sotonohito at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2008


Its good to know that religion is around to safeguard our morals. Why, if it hadn't been for religion I'd have thought rioting because someone drove a car would be wrong.

Who is this "Religion" person who keeps starting riots?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:10 PM on October 10, 2008


I wonder if this Holy man spent any time finding passages to support ending the widespread subjugation of women in the Muslim world?

What does that have to do with this post, exactly? I mean, as an atheist, I get the "scoff at religion" thing, but I also don't see the use of suggesting a positive action is pointless because it wasn't also accompanied by other positive actions.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2008


Stop confusing the issue with facts!!!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:22 PM on October 10, 2008


This isn't about Muslims, it is about one mosque. Not all Muslims think dogs are unclean. There is no Pope in Islam. It isn't monolithic. There are a lot of different cultures, traditions, ways of looking at the law and ways of living within Islam.

Allah is frequently called "The Compasionate." It isn't a reach to think he might approve of letting a guy have his guide dog with him.
posted by QIbHom at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this Holy man spent any time finding passages to support ending the widespread subjugation of women in the Muslim world?

What does that have to do with this post, exactly? I mean, as an atheist, I get the "scoff at religion" thing, but I also don't see the use of suggesting a positive action is pointless because it wasn't also accompanied by other positive actions.


What it has to do with this post: It strikes me as absurd that this action by this one Imam has received any notice in light of the cancer (institutionalized subjugation of women) that pervades the very core of institutionalized Islam. It's like praising a doctor for taking care of a patient's ingrown toenail while they were dying from a massive brain injury.

As someone else noted there is no pope in Islam, but there are certainly entire theocracies that comprise the majority of the Islamic world that deserve focus for the harm they bring to their victims.

I just got done watching the stunning documentary 'Deliver Us From Evil' about the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church and all of this dissembling and excuse-making struck me as very similar. Not all Muslims believe the same way, of course I get that. But if we can point out the racism that often underlies some criticism of Islam despite the fact that it is not limited to any specific race, surely we can isolate and criticize the harmful beliefs and practices of a wide swath of that religion as well?
posted by mattholomew at 6:48 AM on October 11, 2008


I'm wondering what, exactly, was happening before here when Muslims had guide dogs and they were considered sufficiently unclean as to bar mosque entry. My (uneducated) guess is that the owners weren't barred entry, only the dogs, which suggests a dog left tied outside the mosque (or left with a member who stayed outside) while a fellow worshipper guided the blind owner into and through the mosque. That's not exactly the height of cruelty and I'm sure would have been understood by the owner.

The two mosques I pass on my way home every day always have men outside guiding traffic and directing parking on Friday afternoons and they're never as obnoxious about stopping the main traffic to give preference to the worshippers as the Wednesday night Baptists near my house. Somehow it seems hard to imagine that, given a challenge like a service dog for one of their members, they wouldn't find a way to be compassionate to their fellow worshipper and accomodate his desire to heed the call to worship.
posted by notashroom at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2008


Oh how convenient.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2008


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