Islamic clerics probing Malaysia dog patting event

(Photo: REUTERS / Bazuki Muhammad)A Muslim protester raises a fist as he shouts slogans in front of a banner during a demonstration against Swedish artist Lars Vilks, whose sketch had shown the Prophet Mohammad with the body of a dog, outside the Swedish embassy in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2010.

When dog lovers in Malaysia organized an animal welfare event in Kuala Lumpur they drew the ire of Islamic authorities as it involved Muslims mingling with what is often seen as man's best friend.

Organizers of the controversial "dog patting" event sought to clear the air on canines, as Islam considers them unclean in multicultural Malaysia.

The gathering drew the attention of people from different cultures, especially hundreds of Muslims, Time magazine reported.

Islamic authorities, however, did not appreciate the event the way organizers hoped they would.

Religious clerics are now investigating into the incident, with one leader describing the event as a way to circumvent the teachings of their faith.

"Don't try to create a culture that is opposite to Islam," Malaysian media quoted Nooh Gadut, a Muslim leader, as saying.

The Muslim event organizer, Syed Azmi Alhabshi, 30, said he had sought people to overcome their fear of canines by putting together an even that advocates for compassion towards animals.

Islamic scholars have said that Muslims are only allowed to touch dogs under certain specific circumstances and were wary of the campaign.

The country's Islamic Development Department (Jakim) is investigating the program, according to a report by

Jakim director-general Othman Mustapha pointed out that the event had been staged "without a good reason."

He said it appeared the organizers had a hidden agenda as it attempted to influence a culture different from what people was used to.

Echoing Mustapha's sentiment, Selangor state Mufti Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid argued that Muslims did not benefit from the program.

He did, however, acknowledge that as God's creations dogs ought to be treated humanely.

Still he said, "Muslims can own dogs only in three instances - to help in hunting, to guard property and to help law enforcement agencies (in tasks such as sniffing out drugs and bombs)."

At the end of the event held at a park on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Muslims who patted dogs did a special washing ritual.

Malaysia has been said to practice a more moderate brand of Islam, but conservative views have gained in recent years.

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