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A case for animal rights

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By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Caught between cries of the human rights violations of guest workers and corruption riddled civil servants, one group of Samaritans has been somewhat squeezed out of print space. There are far more urgent problems as the press would have us believe, but to some that is just not fair.

The following is a plea from one such Samaritan whose mission all along has been to help the underprivileged, who happen to be the four-legged ones. She contends that not enough coverage has been given to the protection of the rights of animals in the Kingdom. She writes:

“Good evening Mr. Tariq, I have to apologize for bothering you with what may not be considered by some to be a major issue. I have been helping, feeding and rescuing animals from the street for 33 years now.

“I am usually a low profile person operating and managing my rescue center with only the help of my husband. I cannot have peace and joy when I see cats of all sizes on top of garbage dumpsters, kittens thrown in the garbage, or left to die a slow death under the scorching sun.

“I am a converted Muslim. I have read the Hadiths and Qur’an in French. One of the most profound messages I have kept from my reading is that there is nothing wrong in giving a bowl of water and a plate of food to hungry animals. Unfortunately, I encountered a nasty Saudi neighbor who filed a complaint with the Municipality and sent the police to summon my husband to the station and made him sign an undertaking not to feed animals from the streets.

“Can you please explain to me this ‘strange law’ of the land, the cradle of Islam, that allows and gives people the right to bully someone who is trying to do goodness in this harsh environment. We have no official animal rescue centers here like those that exist in the West. To my knowledge, there are only a few Saudi ladies and some expatriates including ourselves who rescue distressed animals that other Saudi families no longer want after having purchased them at great cost from pet shops.

“They buy them small and cute and then eventually abandon them to starve in the streets. My husband and I catch such animals whenever we can to treat their wounds and nurse them back to health. They are very badly abused by the environment, the outdoors and the lack of nourishment. Some are in such bad shape that treating them and having them recover is purely God’s miracle.

“Now we have a rude and intolerant person that is supposedly a good Muslim, praying religiously five times a day, coming to dictate to us with the blessings of city officials, how we have to ignore the miseries and suffering of animals, which are God’s creation too.

“Is it just and fair? For 33 long years, we have helped many of these animals cope with rampant cruelty from some people of this Islamic land. We only ask them to leave us in peace to continue our merciful deeds. We only ask God Almighty to help us to help them. We do not need any rewards or recognition from society. Could you please pass our message to those people who only talk of compassion in public and yet become vicious and merciless when they encounter true humane behavior from their neighbor.

“My hope in writing this letter to you is that you can write an article to educate such people in this religious society that animals are also part of God’s creations and God’s Kingdom. Thank you for taking your time to read my letter and I hope that you do consider this to be a matter of importance in this selfish world. Respect and care for animals has to be taught in schools at an early age. This is what’s being done in the West. Sincerely, Yvonne A., a faithful reader.”

Some may consider Yvonne’s pleas to be trivial in today’s world. They may argue that there are far more pressing issues to be addressed than the plight of four-legged felines. In the process they may be forgetting that the mercy of Islam extends beyond human beings to all living creations of God.

It is prohibited in Islam to treat an animal cruelly, or to kill it unless it is needed for food or if it is endangering your life. The Qur’an tells us that “there is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you,” and according to an established Hadith when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked if Allah rewarded acts of charity to animals, he replied: “Yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive. Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.”

As Muslims, it is our duty to be merciful with all living creatures. In the process, we should reward individuals such as Yvonne and others who seek to find comfort for abandoned animals with compassion and understanding and not shower them with distress and intolerance.

[The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena.]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)
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