Hamas, the militant Muslim group in control of the impoverished Gaza strip, recently banned dog walking. The cruel, unusual prohibition has angered residents and imperiled the safety of the area’s canines.
Dog ownership is among the many human enjoyments frowned upon by conservative Muslims. Many Imams deem the animals to be dirty creatures that don’t deserve to be let inside the house. Man’s best friend is deprived his rights because a few cranky old extremists think they’re too filthy.
Despite Islam’s reluctance to embrace dogs, many Gaza residents are pet owners. Countless people were dismayed when they read the note banning them from ever walking their dogs again. For most people, life in Gaza is brutal. It doesn’t matter what your views are on the Palestine/Israel conflict, everyone can admit that people of Gaza lead rough lives.
Resources are scarce. Unemployment is high. Electricity is rationed, limiting their ability to alleviate their boredom by browsing their phones or watching TV. A dog is one of the best creatures that a poor family can adopt. A child who’s stuck in the house suddenly has a reason to play outside; an elderly person who’s been separated from their family can find a friend again.
Hamas, however, disagrees. Despite their insistence that the group has grown more moderate they’re still clearly clinging to conservative Muslim ideals. There are Imams today who teach that someone who touches a dog needs to wash themselves seven times before they’ll be “clean” again.
“In recent weeks, the phenomenon of young men walking with their dogs in the streets has widely spread. It is neither of our culture nor of our traditions. Children and women feel scared when they see dogs. Our duty is to maintain the safety of citizens,” a Hamas spokesman told the Telegraph.
“We are not against dogs, we use dogs in our work. The ban is simply to protect our women and children.”
A culture that denies the utility of dogs shouldn’t be celebrating that fact. If women and children are afraid of the creatures it’s simply because they lack exposure. The rest of the wold discovered a long time ago that a dog isn’t simply a beast of burden. He’s a friend.
“There are studies that show that having a dog reduces the likelihood of depression and other issues,” said Dr. Imad Morad, Gaza’s leading dog veterinarian, said. “Having a dog is good for you. It is not good for the dog, psychologically or physically, to be in the home all the time.”
Confining dogs indoors is unhealthy for both the animals and their owners. Dogs aren’t cats; they need lots of space to run around in. Pet owners, meanwhile, lose out on the joy that accompanies walking a beloved dog.
According to Muslim holy texts: “Someone asked Abu Tharr, ‘What feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog?’ He said: ‘O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil.’”
Mohammad didn’t like dogs, so thousands of years later his followers don’t either.
Of course, the ban only applies to dogs that are being kept as pets. Police dogs are still allowed to roam freely, which might explain why Palestinian women are so uncomfortable with the creatures.
“They don’t want people to get busy with dogs, they want them to think only about politics, about resistance, to always be on and never to relax,” a Gaza resident told the Telegraph.
The ban on walking dogs is just a symptom of the problems plaguing the Gaza strip. Residents will likely lead tough lives until a truce is reached with Israel, and Hamas is no longer in power.