A somewhat unusual event was held over the weekend in a park in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, called "I want to touch a dog." The idea was organized through Facebook in order to introduce Muslims to dogs, and more than 800 people attended, Asia One reports.
Many came to see and be near the dogs, and organizers encouraged a dress code to denote the attendees' interest: yellow for those who wanted to pet a dog, orange for those who just wanted to watch and red for dog owners.
Islam has a complicated relationship with dogs, notes La Stampa. While the Koran tolerates that they are kept as pets, it is forbidden to keep them at home. According to Islamic tradition, angels will not come into a house inhabited by a dog, which over time has led many Muslims to distrust the animals.
Participants in Petaling Jaya also listened to a lecture from a religious leader on dog contact, and were taught the Islamic way to cleanse their hands after touching a dog, called sertu or samak.
While the event seemed like a great success, it also raised controversy. The Department of Islamic Development in the Malaysian government (JAKIM) has opened an investigation, deeming it irresponsible.
"This event has never been held previously and it is the first time it is being exposed to the community. We are Muslims and our religion has stated clearly the penalty regarding dogs. JAKIM will investigate the matter immediately and any action will be referred to the existing provisions," director-general Othman Mustapha was quoted by Channel News Asia as saying.
All traces of the event on Facebook have now disappeared, though on Twitter and Instagram participants are still showing their pride for having overcome what many consider a taboo.
(Main photo: jolene_chan)
Great event of "I want to touch a dog" at Central Park BU on beautiful Sunday morning #iwanttotouchadog #dog #happy #centralparkbu
Eeee geram la! Correct me if I'm wrong. But this is a chowchow? I also once fell to the misconception of hating dogs. But that was when I was chased when I was small. And when people made fun of me for it. The hate came from somewhere wrong. But now that I know how to act in front of dogs, they (some/most) freaking love me.
Having said all that, I hope all Muslims realize of the rules that apply about dogs. I.E, owning one can only be for certain reasons such as hunting or as house guard. Having one as a pretty pet is not advisable. Reason? Pertaining to cleanliness. But if you want to say you'll be happy to clean everytime clarify with an uztaz pretty sure it's alright.
Sunday well spent with the loved ones yesterday at #iwanttotouchadog ðŸ¶
Do u wanna sit on Bella ? Okay ! He said, without hesitation or fear...
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.
Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.
But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."
Criticism of any 'royal project'
The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.
In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release
Freedom of speech at stake
"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."
The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.
The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.
Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.
Shift to social media
While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.
The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.
Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".
- Long Shielded, Thailand's Monarchy Facing Hard Questions Amid ... ›
- French Monarchist Lessons For A Broken American Democracy ... ›
- Thailand To Belarus: The Divides Of Democracy Protesters ... ›