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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2002/ 29 Kislev, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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In Islamic countries, dogs dream of America | In trying to understand why our enemies hate us so much, perhaps we're making things too complicated. Maybe we're trying too hard in our quaintly American way to rationalize the irrational. Maybe they're just crazy.

It's a possibility. To my mind it's a certainty. Let me sum up my thinking in a word: Snoopy.

We Westerners are passionate dog lovers; our enemies are passionate dog haters. We are the nation of Benji, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Lady and the Tramp and Snoopy. Those who despise and wish to destroy us are the nations of: Oh, boy, there's a cute little doggy. Let's kill it!

Unfortunately, I do not exaggerate. In Iran, for instance, a cleric whose name you'll want to memorize to amaze your friends -- Gholamreza Hassani -- recently urged a canine crackdown.

"I call on the judiciary to arrest all long-legged, medium-legged, and short-legged dogs along with their long-legged owners," Hassani told worshippers. "Otherwise I'll do it myself."

The Iranian newspaper that reported Hassani's remarks made no mention of whether short-legged dog owners would be exempt under the new order.

Justification for the government's opposition to the creatures we revere is apparently found in -- you'll never believe this -- Islamic teachings. Not specifically the Quran, which only makes a few references to dogs, but in the Hadith, the collection of sayings by companions and followers of Muhammad that largely informs Islamic law.

One Hadith says that dogs are unclean and offers advice in case of canine contamination of eating implements: "When the dog licks the utensil, wash it seven times, and rub it with earth the eighth time."

Another states that angels won't enter a house where a dog dwells. This could explain the notable absence of angels consorting at our house, where three dogs routinely occupy our couches, lick our breakfast plates and otherwise wallow in the kind of human adoration that fills dogs' dreams.

Other Islamic countries are equally anti-dog. No one needs to replay the Taliban's not-for-Disney dog-gassing video. Or to review the charming spectacle of the Taliban dousing dogs with gasoline and setting them afire. The point of this latter episode escapes me at the moment.

In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to bring in pooches without documentation proving the animal's credentials as a Seeing Eye, guard or hunting dog. Would that American immigration officials were as careful with Saudi Arabians entering our country.

And, yes, our pets probably would fare poorly in Iraq. One sentence in Kenneth Pollack's book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, offers a telling portrait of little Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam was something of a loner, famous for carrying an iron bar wherever he went that he would heat until it was white hot and then use to impale unwary animals -- dogs, cats, whatever made the mistake of coming within his reach."

Interesting that in this country we've been able to connect the dots between loners who lean toward animal mutilation and mass murderers, yet we're still baffled by Saddam. What makes Saddam click? Um, maybe he's just crazy?

It is of course unfashionable to criticize Islam. Still one can't help noting that a culture that hates and mistreats dogs isn't likely to find much common ground with Americans and other Westerners who love and treat dogs as family members. Indeed, part of Islam's contempt for dogs is rooted in the view that canine pets are a manifestation of Western moral corruption.

One could argue that we overindulge our pets. We do. But one could also argue that the domestication of animals is a signpost of civilization. Thousands of years ago, Stone Age men were breeding and caring for dogs. Does logic permit one to question the moral equivalence of a "civilization" that makes cave men seem progressive?

I should confess that my own template for judging people is largely dog-informed. Let's put it this way: A man who doesn't like dogs isn't likely to park his shoes anywhere near mine. Indeed, in my little community of humans, certain young men have learned that walking a large fluffy white dog (a.k.a. chick magnet) on a leash across a school campus is an effective mating strategy.

What do you suppose young lads in Baghdad do when they see a cute girl approaching -- impale a poodle with a white-hot poker?

Possibly the best explanation for Islamic countries' contempt of dogs comes from Artin Zaman, a founder of the Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who suggested that demonizing others distracts the natives from their own miseries.

"Sometimes they go after satellite dishes, sometimes they go after the way women are dressed on the street, and sometimes they go after dogs," Zaman told The New York Times.

And sometimes they go after Americans. Crazy.

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