“Opt to Adopt”, which was organized at Penang Times Square in Malaysia at the beginning of March, infuriated several religious radicals but the organizers clarified that the event was targeted towards non-Muslims only.
The event, which was jointly organized by “Save Our Strays”, Han Chiang College and Penang Times Square, led to controversy after a photograph of a burqa-wearing woman holding a puppy went viral across social networking sites, thus drawing much criticism from Muslim radicals. Responding to the criticism, Chow Yong Neng, chief executive at Han Chiang College, said in a statement that the event was organized by non-Muslims and meant to encourage only non-Muslims in adopting stray dogs so their numbers reduce on the streets.
Neng also explained that the event, organized at a public space in George Town, from March 4 to 8, was part of a co-curricular activity for non-Muslim students so they can learn about the repercussions of such an adoption drive.
“We can confirm that we do not know the woman in the controversial picture and she is not one of our students,” he said.
On a brighter note, the event did lead to the adoption of ten stray dogs.
The controversial picture from the event was shared across social media a day before Neng’s statement and it quickly became viral.
Rafizal Abd Rahim, chief of Penang Umno Youth, drew a parallel of the photograph with the controversial “I Want to Touch a Dog” event, which was organized in Kuala Lumpur last year, before asking the state’s religious affairs department to take action against the event’s organizers.
“Islam is universal and it preaches love to not only mankind but to all including animals, environment and everything,” he said.
He explained that Islam mandates this guideline to be followed completely so as to enable Muslims to live a complete life. He also said that in the Quran, this guideline is referred to as Islam Rahmatan Lil’Alamin.
The earlier campaign, titled “I Want to Touch a Dog”, was organized by a young Muslim man named Syed Azmi Alhabshi in Central Park, Selangor, in October 2014 and it attracted as many as 200 volunteers and pet owners. Several Malay Muslims turned up at the non-profit event to get close to pooches, which are considered taboo in Islam. However, the event received much flak from conservatives, who believe touching dogs is clearly disallowed by their religion due to them being unclean and comparable to excrement. Yet, several liberals stood up to defend Alhabshi’s intent. Some scholars argued that if dogs are comparable to excrement, Muslim veterinarians, toilet cleaners and parents must be compared to the same as well since they too come in contact with excrement while doing their respective jobs. Still, continuing pressure from hardliners led to Alhabshi issuing a public apology soon after.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia