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CATS AND DOGS BANNED BY SAUDI RELIGIOUS POLICE
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia’s religious police, normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque prayers, are turning to a new target: cats and 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.
The religious police, known as the Muttawa, have the role of enforcing Saudi Arabia’s strict Islamic code. Its members prowl streets and malls, ensuring unmarried men and women do not mix, confronting women they feel are not properly covered or urging men to go to prayers.
But the government also gives the Muttawa wide leeway to enforce any rules they deem necessary to uphold the social order.
The decree — which applies to the Red Sea port city of Jiddah and the holy city of Mecca — bans the sale of cats and dogs because “some youths have been buying them and parading them in public,” according to a memo from the Municipal Affairs Ministry to Jiddah’s city government.
The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, urges city authorities to help enforce the ban.
Pet owning is not common in the Arab world, though dogs are kept for hunting and guarding. In large cities around the Middle East, stray dogs often wander the streets and are considered pests. Street cats are also plentiful, and people will often feed them or play with them — but it isn’t a widespread custom to keep one in the home, and many cannot afford it.
The rest of the article explores these concerns, and can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14738358/. Due to copyright restrictions we cannot reproduce the article in full, but please visit the MSNBC website to read more and send us your opinions and comments!