February 15, 2012 – Joshua Gardner
Will the new sense of freedom, openness, and compassion that has bloomed in the wake of the Egyptian revolution benefit animals as well as humans? On October 31, Professor Kristen Stilt, a visiting professor of Islamic law from Northwestern, offered some answers to this question. Professor Stilt began by discussing Islamic legal rules (including verses of the Quran and suras of the Prophet Muhammad) that relate to animals. These seem, overall, to require compassion toward animals, although dogs are identified as “unclean” in a ritual sense, while cats are labeled “clean.” This requirement of compassion stands in sharp contrast to the situation on the ground in many Muslim-majority countries, where there are few laws on the books to prevent animals from mistreatment, the laws that exist are rarely enforced, and prevailing cultural attitudes tend to objectify animals and treat the idea of “animal rights” as a joke. The result is that work animals are often treated harshly, street dogs are mercilessly abused, and endangered animals are shot for sport by wealthy tourists. Autocratic rulers have repressed the few animal rights groups that exist, like other non-governmental organizations, including by choking off contributions from abroad.
Against this … Read More »