Outreach Groups Promote Understanding After Muslim Student Threatens Service Dog

May 16, 2008 08:00 AM
by Anne Szustek

Islamic groups are backing a Minnesota college student whose dog was threatened by a Muslim student, and are using the incident to start cross-cultural dialogue.

30-Second Summary

St. Cloud State University student Tyler Hurd withdrew from his student-teaching responsibilites in April after a Muslim Somali student threatened to kill Hurd’s black Labrador while Hurd was teaching at St. Cloud Tech High School. Hurd needs the dog for guidance during his seizures, which stem from a childhood injury.

Islam encourages the use of dogs for protection and hunting but frowns upon keeping dogs as pets in the Western sense, leaving some observant Muslims in America at a cultural impasse.

Contact with dog saliva requires Muslims to perform ritual ablutions, and a story narrated in the Hadith, or ways of Prophet Muhammad, has led to the Islamic belief that angels will not enter a home where dogs are present.

Dr. Ayoub Banderker, while pointing out Muslims are commanded to treat dogs with the utmost compassion, writes on Web site Islamic Concern that it is “haram,” or forbidden, to keep dogs in small cages or on a tether for long periods outside.

Such cultural mores have played a part in Istanbul’s stray dog population. In 1996 there were an estimated 150,000 dogs roaming within the Turkish city’s limits. Family dogs are often left out in yards without leashes and some consider the keeping of pets to be “unnatural.”

Yet Muslim groups are quick to point out that Muhammad used dogs as guardians, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the threats against Hurd’s dog. “The moral and legal need to accommodate individuals using service dogs far outweighs the discomfort an individual Muslim might feel about coming into contact with a dog, which is one of God's creatures," said Valerie Shirley, communications director for Minnesota’s branch of CAIR.

Headline Link: ‘Islamic Group Backs Service Dog Owner Threatened by Muslim Students’

Background: Islam and dogs

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Muslim Group Supports Student’s Right to Service Dog’

Reference: FindingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Islam; Council on American-Islamic Relations

Related Topic: ‘Turkey Seeks to Modernize Islamic Texts’


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