Saturday, September 16, 2006

Doing It Doggie Saudi Style

I realised last night that the incessant barking of the neighbourhood dogs (which serenades me most evenings) isn't exactly incessant. Sometimes it stops. Now, this can be a good thing but ofttimes it isn't. You see, when the barking stops, my ears are beseiged by the pitiful mewing of newborn kittens, little bundles of calicoed cuteness crying, presumably, from hunger. This is not a happy sound. In fact, it makes me want to stop my ears with candle wax and hide in a closet for the remainder of the evening singing the alphabet song until I lose consciousness.

In Agdal, cats & dogs come in 2 basic guises: the housepet and the generally reviled. In my neighbourhood it is rare to see a feral dog (although I can certainly hear them) while wild cats pretty much run amok around town. I have only seen one bonafide housecat (its thick shiny coat gives it away) out-of-doors. Presumably Rabatians keep their cats indoors - a wise move since most would probably become road paste in no time. Pet dogs can be seen about town - little frou frou beribboned things that should, by rights, dispense tissues rather than the little turds that their owners are loath to pick up.

This bit of mental meandering got me wondering about the status of Fluffy and Spot in other countries - and it didn't take me long to find that the Muttawa (Saudi's Religious Police whose long reach extends to pretty much anything that upholds the social order), no longer satisfied with harassing women and corralling call-to-prayer-deaf men into mosques, have now set their sights on a new affront to Islam - an import that can be traced directly from the Infidel West - yes, the insidious housepet. And by housepet, I don't mean their wives & daughters but rather their cats & dogs.

"The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence. The prohibition on dogs may be less of a surprise, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as unclean. But the cat ban befuddled many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats — and even let a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers."

There is no word on the fate of budgies & goldfish but I suspect the worse. I fear that there will be much flushing. This is Saudi after all.

Now, in what can only be described as a slap in the face of Peace, Public Decorum and Religious Observance, several de facto apostate youth have not only bought dogs from licensed pet shop owners but have been seen "parading them in public". I believe, we infidels (and many Rabatians) would call that "walking the dog". And the official response to that? -"what's the point of dragging a dog behind you? This is blind emulation of the infidels." That would be, in a word, the blind leading the blind (5 words). And as for Saudi cats - well, one need only to look at the above photo to see how they feel (note the extension of the middle toe).

"Conservatives decry the trend [of owning & caring for animals] as a Western influence, just like the fast food, shorts, jeans and pop music that have become more common in the kingdom, which is ruled by the puritanical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. They say it should be fought because it is threatening the fabric of Gulf nations."

You know, first you buy a puppy and the next thing you know, you're cutting your beard, becoming a Seventh-Day Adventist, allowing women to vote, to drive, to leave home, enrol in university, seek medical attention, and open bank accounts without the permission of a male guardian? The horror! Nope, there's no Hello Kitty in Saudi - it's Goodbye Kitty and good riddance.

Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder: which would suck more, living in Saudi, Iran (the only other Muslim country to restrict pet ownership) or China? And just when I think that one country has broken free from the pack because of some innovative method of mass-execution, or for subjugating a hitherto unsubjugated segment of its population, or perhaps developing a novel way to torment an endangered species, poof! the scales tip in another direction. Go figure.

As one Saudi pet owner said, "I tell them this is not a Western innovation. Our religion says we should take care of animals." Tell that to the religious police, pal.

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