Iran’s new legislation to ban dogs in public places has provoked outrage in the Western media, though perhaps little surprise. For many in the developing world, the attention and fuss which countries like the US and UK pour onto their pets is bewildering and quite alien. For Iranians, many of whom conform to strict Interpretations of Islamic doctrine the differences are more severe still. Sharia or orthodox Islamic law considers dogs najes or unclean. According to the new legislation, dog owners may face fines of between $100 and $500 dollars if found with a dog in the streets, after which their pet will be confiscated. What happens to it after that is unclear. When interviewed by the Fars News Agency, deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Regan clarified that police would: confront those who walk their dogs in the streets. Cars carrying dogs will also be impounded.’
Islamic attitudes to dog ownership vary widely, it should be emphasised, with many countries sharing similar views to those of the West in which the animals are well looked after and much loved. Countries like Iran which follow stricter interpretations of Islamic law, however, have traditionally held much stronger views against canines. In places such as Pakistan, for example, it is considered an insult to call someone a dog lover, and the country’s president Musharaf is often hounded for his well-known ownership of a dog called Whiskey. During a recent trial in which he we was questioned about his involvement in the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, detractors chanted ‘dog, dog’ from the stands in protest at his arrival.
The new legislation in Iran marks several years of increasing hostility towards dog ownership, which has come to be a symbol of Western ways of living. During 2011, it was momentarily suggested that dog ownership would be banned outright, and although this did not happen, any pet advertising has been banned from the media lest it provoke moral decrepitude. This new law will have a particular impact in Tehran where most Western modes of living are more commonplace than rural areas, and a stylish pooch on a leash has come to be a similar statement as a pair of Raybans or high heeled shoes. Western influence is the real target of the pet ban, pundits suggest. Dog ownership carries intimations of rebellion for Iran’s lawgivers, who have been cracking down on any perceived challenges to Islamic rule, especially since the mass demonstrations against the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
Iran’s latest attack on dog lovers follows the actual fatwa of 2009, launched by a well-known anti-Western cleric called Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi. Interviewed about his fatwa, the Ayatollah reported that owners of dogs were “blindly imitating the West” and that their devotion to the animals would result in “evil outcomes”. He added: “Many people in the West love their dogs more than their wives and children.”
As a final note, those Iranian dog owners thinking to get around the laws by driving their dogs around in cars with tinted windows are out luck. Tinted windows are now banned also!
About the Author: Sam Ryder blogs for Airpaws, a pet transport company based in the UK, as well as flying gliders and growing the odd tomato.