Alexandra Semyonova comments from The Netherlands:
Every once in a while allegations that Muslim immigrants to Europe are anti-dog erupt again in the media, sometimes due to a real declaration by a radical Muslim group, but more often due to a widely publicized incident involving someone who happens to be Muslim objecting to the presence of a dog somewhere.
A typical example of this was an article originally published by the Gatestone Institute on January 31, 2012, “Muslims Declare Jihad on Dogs in Europe,” which more than two years later went viral on Facebook. In this article the Gatestone Institute reported that the Hague (Netherlands) Islam Democrats council member Hasan Küçük had demanded that keeping dogs in the city be criminalized. The Gatestone article then went on to cite other places in Europe where Muslims were supposedly committing jihad against our canine companions.
In fact, the international media and internet riot about the Hague council member’s words was a result of an article in De Telegraaf (a low quality, sensationalist newspaper, with — of course — the highest readership in The Netherlands). Apparently there had been a debate in the Hague city council in which the Party for Animals asked to make the city more dog-friendly. On January 28, 2012, De Telegraaf quoted Hasan Küçük as saying during that debate that he wanted to make keeping dogs illegal because “Dogs belong in nature, not in a house. A dog in an apartment is animal abuse.” On January 30, 2012, Het Algemeen Dagblad (a medium quality paper) published a correction:
“Küçük says his words were quoted out of context. There was a fiery debate last week in the council about the city’s animal policy, says Küçük. During this debate the fraction chairman remarked that he thinks it’s pitiful that dogs are sometimes shut up in flats for 23 hours of each day. ‘But there is no question of our party wanting to ban dog ownership in The Hague.’ He [Küçük] wasn’t available to comment this weekend.”
Note that even De Telegraaf didn’t claim Küçük had posed religious grounds or said that dogs are unclean. It seems that is what other media made of it as they interpreted (or freely expanded upon) what Küçük had actually said, implying at the same time that all Muslims share this fabricated view.
It should be noted that the Islam Democrats are not the only party that considers keeping dogs in a city to be animal abuse. The Hague City Party, a purely indigenous (ie, without roots in any immigrant culture), secular, mostly white local party, also wants to discourage dog ownership in town for the same reason (“dogs belong in nature”), but unlike Küçük, the City Party has always added that dogs are carriers of disease and spreaders of filth (faeces) and don’t belong among us, at least not in urban areas.
In a better effort at journalistic integrity, Trouw (a high quality paper) published a column on February 2, 2012, in which the columnist asked an Islamic neighbor boy about Islam and dogs. The boy, who loved to walk his neighbor’s dog said the Küçük incident led him to ask his father, an imam, whether walking dogs was allowed. His father had told him this:
“Animals, including dogs, should be treated with love and respect. Only when you pray, for which you must be absolutely clean, are you not allowed to touch them.”
This jibes with what Muslim neighbors tell me –– they avoid me when I’m out with my dogs not because they fear or dislike dogs, but because if a dog touches their clothing, they have to change their clothes before they can pray. This doesn’t mean that all imams or all Muslims will approve of interacting with dogs. It does mean that we can’t paint all of them as anti-dog, any more than any other community is unanimously anti-dog or pro-dog.
Religious rules or macho culture?
It’s true that there are Muslims who would like to see Sharia imposed in the Netherlands and would like to see dogs (among many other things) banned. Young men returning from waging jihad in Syria are a serious problem. And there are other things related to Islamic radicalism that are real issues. However, this radicalism is not coming from the long-established Turkish community, as is often alleged, but rather from various North African immigrant groups.
There is a generation gap. It is not the first generation who emigrated to the Netherlands to find a better life who are radical Islamists, but instead their children, born and raised in the Netherlands, who are radicalizing as they search for an identity, and who are most vulnerable to North African jihadist recruitment.
In addition, fairness demands that we acknowledge that orthodox Muslims are not the only ones who would like to impose their religious beliefs on entire communities. Many other religious groups do this too, though dogs aren’t always one of the issues mentioned.
As far as dogs and Muslims go… One will often see Turks in the Netherlands with some normal dog, whom they generally treat as well as anyone else does, but the situation is different among the North African Muslims. It is not that the North African Muslims never have dogs. Many Muslim youths of North African descent do have dogs…but when they do, those dogs seem always to be pit bull-type dogs. This seems to be less a religious question than a reflection of a macho culture in which manliness means projecting a credible threat of violence. This type of macho culture is obviously not exclusive to any religious community or any specific geographical region, and the pit bull-type dog is everywhere the dog of choice for this purpose.
Taxis, public places, dogs and Islam
It is true that as more and more North African Muslims take up cab driving (an issue tied up with deregulation), it is increasingly difficult to find a cab that will take a dog. If you arrive at a big city train station with a dog, the row of self-employed North African Muslim drivers will often refuse to carry you. These are mostly first generation immigrants using their privately owned automobiles to earn a living. Their problem with carrying dogs may be as much cultural as religious, since these drivers come from places where goats and chickens commonly travel in public busses, but where it is not common to keep dogs as pets people have close contact with.
European law regarding guide dogs for the blind and other certified service dogs varies. In some countries, no one can refuse to allow a service dog on the premises or in the taxi. In other countries, this is up to the owner of the premises or the cab. A 2004 survey among Dutch users of blind guide dogs showed that 70% have been turned away with their dogs at least once. At the time, Chinese restaurants were the most common places that refused access to blind guide dogs. Taxi drivers stated various reasons for refusing a guide dog, including fear or allergy, dog hairs in the cab and sometimes indeed religious belief. In August 2013, the Dutch government announced plans to make admission of guide dogs for the blind obligatory, but the law has not yet been passed. For now, the blind are still sometimes refused service with a guide dog.
As yet there is no apparent relationship between the refusal of specifically service dogs and Islam. We do not yet have the degree of service dog fraud here that the pit bull crowd is committing in the U.S, so refusing a blind person’s guide dog really seems to be — as yet — either religious, cultural or simply personal aversion.
Unfortunately, the service dog fraud is starting to take hold over here. A friend recently saw a pit bull on the Eurostar, which doesn’t allow any but service dogs in the train. The dog was muzzled, and obviously was not really a service dog given its unruly and disruptive behavior. So I fear that refusing service dogs soon won’t be a question of culture, religion, or other motives, but a response to the pit bull crowd’s willingness to lie.
The real jihad against dogs
Present Dutch law bans dogs only in places where food is being directly handled and prepared. Otherwise, whether to admit dogs is left up to whoever owns the premises. The only public places from which dogs are banned by law are officially designated children’s playgrounds.
A dog can legally enter a restaurant, but not the kitchen. Dogs have always been welcome on Dutch public transport. Most of the Americans I know have been either delightfully surprised or outright horrified at our Dutch custom of taking dogs with us on busses and trains and into restaurants and shops. It is surprising that they would see banning dogs from such places as a Muslim issue.
However, since the longstanding Dutch national ban on possession of pit bulls was repealed in 2008, there has been a growing tendency to ban dogs from entering shops, restaurants, and other places the general public frequents. There are plenty of places, such as shops and pubs, that would happily continue to admit dogs, if only they could exclude the pit bull types and their mixes. But since admitting any dog at all means also admitting the grippers, these venues ban all dogs from the premises.
Many public parks that used to allow dogs off-leash now require that all dogs be leashed. The parks that do still allow dogs off-leash are becoming more and more unusable for the owners of normal dogs, because so many normal dogs are being mauled and killed in these places by the grippers.
During the pit bull ban, parents did not reflexively panic if an off-leash dog approached their children in a park. Now they do. Dog owners did not panic if dogs had an argument. Now they do, absorbing the propaganda that all dogs are out to kill their playmate if a spat erupts.
This growing anti-dog sentiment in the Netherlands is clearly related to the return of the pit bull-type dog more than to any religion. Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom and Marianne Thiema’s Party for Animals were, together, responsible for the repeal of the Dutch pit bull ban. They have both antagonized a good part of the general population by their pit bull love.
Both of them have also antagonized Muslims — the Party for Freedom by being openly anti-Islam, the Party for Animals by attempting to ban the kosher/halal slaughter of fully conscious, non-stunned animals. And the return of the pit bull type dog, with the propaganda that they are just like all other dogs (i.e, that all dogs are as dangerous as pit bulls) has indeed led to a decline in the acceptance of dogs in public places.
If any “jihad” is harming dogs in Europe and our relationship with them, it is the pit bull crowd’s jihad to make us believe that the dog they idolize is “just like any dog,” that adopting one of the thousands of pit bulls they dump at shelters is the gate to Paradise, and to force the type of dog they idolize down all of our throats. It’s unfair to blame this on Islam.
Jenny Ro says
LOVE THIS Merritt, as always! I always learn so much more than just about animals when I read your work…. and that is a good thing. 🙂
Finally! Some who takes a helicopter view on the larger connection. Do we want a world that is built on nice people with normal dogs as companions, or do we want the world to evolve around agressive criminals with agressive fighting breed dogs?
It is shocking that government and others seem to choose the latter option again and again. I am so glad someone finallly points this out.
doug arch says
You say that not all Muslims are anti-dog, yet as a group the Islamic party wants dogs to be outlawed in The Hague. Therefore, presuming they were able to become the dominant party, they would still ban dogs in this city despite the fact that some Muslims are “not anti-dog”. I would not like to see immigrants come into my area, gain some political control & then ban dogs. Somehow, banning dogs strikes me as anti-dog sentiment.
The fact that there is another political group feeling the same way is irrelevent because as pointed out, they are purely indigenous. Any topic has folks for & against it. The fact that they do not represent a specific culture simply indicates they are one sub-group from various cultures who if not anti-dog (am I being politically correct?) are anti-city dog. (Still I wonder, if The Hague was a smaller town & not a city, would they still find some reason to want dogs banned?) My point is that banning dogs from living in a particular ares (& preventing other people who do take care for and love dogs from being able to have them) is anti-dog – – and this is the viewpoint that the Islamic group (which does represent the consensus of a particular culture) holds.
Merritt Clifton says
There is no “Islamic party” in The Hague, any more than there is a “Christian party,” or a “Catholic party.” The Islam Democrats, whose leader suggested restrictions on keeping dogs in apartment houses, are one of several political parties competing for political support from the substantial Islamic community in The Hague, and in the Netherlands, much as a variety of parties representing a variety of perspectives (some with the word “Christian” in their names) compete for the support of Christian voters. Further of note is that excluding dogs from apartment houses is not at all an extreme or unusual position by U.S. standards. Within most major cities, we have entire gated communities of tens of thousands of people that exclude dogs. Altogether, about a third of the total residential housing in the U.S. excludes dogs –– which is a much broader exclusion than exists in many Islamic nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey.