“And their dog stretched out its forelegs at the threshold.” [Qur’an 18:18]
There was a feature by Peter Oborne in the online edition of today’s Daily Mail (of all papers) arguing that post-war Britain is Islamophobic, basing a good part of its argument on the zeal of newspaper editors to print ridiculous stories to make Muslims look bad. At the moment it has been taken offline. (It was so good that the Mail had to preface it with: “Doubtless, many will disagree with him…”!)
Update: Here it is at a new link: Is post-war Britain anti-Muslim?
One case he didn’t mention is the recent scandal surrounding Rebel, the Tayside police puppy whose image was used on a promotional leaflet for a new emergency number. The police received a complaint from a Dundee councillor who sits on their board, and then apologised profusely for their lack of sensitivity. The story? The councillor is a Muslim and based his complaint on alleged offence caused to Muslims due to dogs being “unclean”.
The result? Letters like that in yesterday’s Metro, saying that “If Muslims don’t understand our culture, then I think they belong elsewhere.”
The papers have to answer as to why many of them ran this story without any basic fact-checking. First of all, why should a councillor be taken as representing a religious community? Perhaps the complaints have more to do with culture – why was it made into an “Islamic” issue? Did they consult the local mosques or other Muslim organisations to establish whether the complaint had any substance to it? Did they even solicit the opinions of shopkeepers to see whether Councillor Asif’s claim that they were particularly offended was accurate?
We agree with Mahmud Sarwar Rathor, trustee of Dundee’s Dura Street Mosque, who in yesterday’s Scotsman clarified that “This is not an issue as far as the Muslim community is concerned… the fact that it was a picture makes it more ridiculous to say it was offensive. Muslim shopkeepers sell dog food with pictures of animals on it.”
We don’t, of course, know how many shopkeepers had a word with Councillor Asif, but his duty was not to pass on the complaints. His duty was to tell them not to be so silly. One can only assume that the pious objections came from shopkeepers not involved in selling alcohol, pornography or lottery tickets, all of which are truly offensive to our moral principles.
What some Muslims should realise is that they have some cultural hang-ups that are not supported by the religion. It’s true that we are never to eat pork, and that dog saliva is to be cleaned off if it gets on your clothes. But this doesn’t mean that pigs and dogs are absolutely “unclean” or that we are supposed to hate them (are they not Allah’s creation?), let alone be offended by their picture or mention. I’m reminded of a young Pakistani Muslim in a documentary set in Dundee a couple of years ago, who claimed that if you say the word P-I-G in Saudi Arabia you’ll be jailed for 40 days! Needless to say, this is a fantasy with no basis in religion and reality.
So next time Muslims feel an itch to complain, let them take a deep breath, think about what they’re saying and its consequences, and consider this word of advice from Ross Clark about priorities.
Sohaib Saeed, Dialogue Working Group