Religious police ban cats and dogs
By Donna Abu-Nasr in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Published: 10 September 2006
Saudi Arabia's religious police, the Muttawa, are normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque. Now they are turning to a new target: cats and dogs. They have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence.
The prohibition on dogs is unsurprising, since conservative Muslims despise the animals as unclean. But the cat ban has astonished many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Mohamed loved cats even in one instance letting a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers.
The Muttawa enforce Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code, prowling streets and malls to ensure unmarried men and women do not mix, confronting women they feel are not properly covered and urging men to go to prayers. But they have wide leeway to enforce any rules they deem necessary to uphold the social order.
The new decree, which applies to the Red Sea port of Jeddah 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," says the Municipal Affairs Ministry.