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Dogs: Face To Face With My Enemy

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By Sarfraz Manzoor from The Guardian

Many Muslims, growing up in devout households, are taught that dogs are dirty and scary. So could Sarfraz Manzoor learn to love Cookie the bulldog?

I don’t like dogs. I find them frightening and unpredictable; I don’t like their panting, drooling ways and I feel uncomfortable not being able to tell which dog is friendly and which wants to chew off my arm. I prefer species that appreciate amusing word play and the concept of irony. But in Britain, to be a dog-hater is to admit to an unforgivable perversion. There is no socially acceptable way, I have learned, to recoil in horror when someone tries to plonk their pooch on to my lap. And now, on top of all that, I find myself living with a woman who has a very different attitude to dogs – she adores them – and she has a dream that one day the Manzoor household could include the pitter-patter of doggy paws. I love my girlfriend, but can I also learn to love dogs?

A walk in the park, for the dog fearer, is no walk in the park. I am in Clissold park in north London. In almost every way it is a perfect day – a pleasant, warm morning, the last few clouds scooting across a bright blue sky – but as usual my reverie is shattered by the sight of dogs charging across the park. They scamper and dart, followed by owners hurling moist wooden sticks. Waiting to meet me in the park’s cafe is Louise Glazebrook, a dog behaviourist who runs the Darling Dogs company. “Dog anxiety can be something that is transmitted down from parents to children,” she tells me. I am not listening as my attention is on the giant Burmese mountain dog that is dawdling past us. Once it has safely slipped away I start listening again. “Sometimes it can be one particular thing that triggers a fear of dogs,” Glazebrook says, “like teeth or saliva or the dog’s mouth, so I want you to think about why exactly you don’t like dogs.”

When I was at school, I associated dogs with skinheads.

Well, it started in childhood. Growing up in a Muslim household, I was told dogs were dirty – their saliva was unclean and the angels would not visit any house with a dog for that reason. When I saw any on the streets, I either froze with fear or ran in terror. When I was at school in the 80s, I associated dogs with skinheads; round where we lived, the racists delighted in unleashing their alsatians whenever they saw brown-skinned boys like me. Dogs may have been man’s best friend, but they were an Asian’s worst enemy.

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Janette Hamilton
Janette Hamilton
10 years ago

This author at least faced his fears and if he still does not like to be around dogs at least he can say he tried. It is sad that religion bears any place in telling us what the worth of an animal is. However if we think logically then it is easy to see that NO religion should be maligning one of God’s creatures. Dog’s unclean? How ridiculous is that? In India they worship cows! I wouldn’t want to share my home with a cow, but it does not make them unclean, just impractical as pets. Personally I think that a lot of countries still live in the dark ages when it comes to domestic animals. Do you know it has been scientifically proven that the bite from a human contains far more bacteria than the bite from a dog? Think about that for a minute before claiming dogs are dirty creatures.

At least this author was willing to go against everything he has been raised to think, and try to befriend some dogs. Personally I think everyone should do this before carrying forth the belief that dogs are dangerous dirty creatures that have no place in a home. I find it highly amusing that any religion would take such a stand against a creature that was created by the very God they claim to be faithful to. It just proves my theory that religion and state should be seperate from each other. Do not teach your children that dogs are dirty and untrustworthy simply because your religion tells you so, find out for yourself what these wonderful creatures are all about. After all, Hitler taught young Germans that Jews were unclean and should not be allowed to live, didn’t make him right, but an entire generation of children grew up believing so. Should we really sit by and allow such ridiculous myths to be handed down in the name of religion? Perhaps we truly need to educate the masses to the usefulness and benefits of dog ownership.

If you have tried to get to know dogs, and come out on the other end still disliking them (personally I think you are nuts there is nothing better than the companionship of a good dog) then okay you can honestly say dogs are not for you, and it is your choice not to own one. This should however be the end of it. People who do not like dogs are well within their rights to do so, and can stay away from them if they so choose, however disliking dogs does not give one the right to malign and discredit them. So you don’t like dogs, I feel sorry for you but that is your choice to make. Don’t run scared from mine when you see them coming or talk about how I should not be allowed to own them or that they should not be suffered to live, just leave well enough alone and agree to disagree, that is your right. Do not pass your fear and hatred down to your children just because it is what has always been done, allow your children to form their own opinions on the subject. The world will never change if we continue to pass down the myths or fairytales of religious truth. God did not create creatures who are unclean and evil, and no matter what your religion we all agree on one thing, all living beings are God’s creation, will you be the one to condemn dogs because of some misguided mythology?

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