Pets and Sin

Sometimes when I read about some religion’s latest edict, I feel as if the world has turned into bizarro-land. No matter what nation it is, there are always plenty of power-obsessed egomaniacs setting inane rules for everybody else to follow. If they are heads of governments, they threaten to throw you in jail or execute you if you don’t obey. If it’s a religious group, they threaten you with everlasting hellfire and damnation. If it’s a nation in which a religion IS the government, you get both.

But I’m wondering what kind of response the faithful will have to the latest religious law handed down by Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Saudi Arabia’s Islamic police has banned the sale of dogs and cats as pets. They have also banned walking them in public. If they catch anybody walking a dog or taking a cat outside, the pet will be confiscated, and the human punished.

Their reasoning is that dogs and cats attract attention. People who see one want to come over and pet it, which leads to people speaking to the pet’s owner. And, horror of horrors, the pet’s owner may be of a different sex than that of the person who admires the pet. Prohibiting the ownership of dogs and cats will thereby ensure the separation of the sexes among unmarried people.

The law went into effect last week in Riyadh, and authorities say it will be strictly enforced. This time they may have gone too far. It’s one thing to set rules about what to wear and how long to keep your beard, but outlawing pets that give you comfort while you follow restrictive rules may be too much. I imagine there are a number of Saudis today looking at their pets and comparing the love and loyalty they get from them with what they get from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. I doubt that we’ve heard the last of this decree.

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