NEWS AND COMMENT: In a press conference yesterday, the Taliban spokesman provided a clear, overriding message to everyone which was that they want peace in Afghanistan and talented and hard-working people to remain. In essence, they want things to carry on as before except it will be an Islamic state run under strict Sharia law. The new Afghan government is yet to be formed but the spokesman said that it will happen quickly. They want peace and they want to assuage the desperate fears of many people who think that they are going to be dragged back to the Dark Ages when girls couldn’t go to school; a highly misogynistic society.
We await developments as to whether the Taliban can be trusted to stick to their intentions. A lot of people don’t trust them because of a terrible track record. So, what about domestic and stray cats in Afghanistan? We need to discuss them as well as people. Someone’s got to think about the animals in that benighted country which has being going through a war for donkeys’ years.
The Taliban are not good at human rights and therefore they are not good at animal rights. Fortunately for the domestic cat they have a head start because the Prophet Muhammad loved cats as we all know. His favourite cat was Muezza (Muʿizza; Arabic: معزة). His clear message which has travelled through the ages is to respect cats. Not every Muslim does.
But it’s a good start. In some ways the domestic and stray cat is fireproof because of these early teachings of the Prophet. The Islamic faith allows people to have cats and it is not haram (forbidden) to sell cats. In short, the relationship between Muslims and domestic cats is somewhat similar to the relationship that Westerners have with their pets.
I don’t think that it is exactly the same though. Especially in developing countries such as Afghanistan where education is generally less good than in the West. Education protects domestic and stray cats from abuse. The poorer the education in a society the lower the standard of animal welfare. And the Taliban have a history of banning education for girls.
That thought is borne out in an article by the Humane Society about pets and Muslims. A Muslim woman living in America adopted a cat and she finds that it helps to integrate her into the American way of life because her cat is a discussion point. She does state, however, that many Muslims live in parts of the world such as Afghanistan where the basic human necessities are scarce. This engenders an attitude that pets are symbolic of the excesses and extravagances of the West. They may consider pets to be an indulgence. She also states that some Muslims “try to use religious rulings to justify the revulsion of cats and dogs”. The Koran has been used to justify the most heinous of crimes. And other Muslims in these developing countries “liken the keeping of pets to a Western un-Islamic lifestyle”. Her husband believes that some Muslims only like animals that are served to them on their dinner plates.
There is an overlap here between the Islamic faith and the level of development in a country. In many Islamic countries standards are poor relative to the West and this inevitably leads to poor animal welfare. There appears to be a disastrous connection between the Islam faith and poor economic development.
A major problem with the Islamic faith is that it indulges in speciesism: it respects cats but disrespects dogs. This is highly improper and completely unfair. It is based upon ridiculously outdated cultural beliefs which should be changed in the interest of dog welfare.
The conclusion must be that in Afghanistan there will be little change in respect of the government’s attitude towards stray and domestic cats now that the Taliban have taken control. However, animal welfare is not a priority for the Taliban and therefore we can’t expect advances in animal welfare in Afghanistan which would be a backward step. There is a need to constantly improve animal welfare. It won’t happen in Afghanistan. The prospects of a decent life for cats born in that country are fragile.
P.S. The news today is “20,000 Afghans to resettle in the UK as more evacuees from Kabul arrive at RAF Brize Norton”. If they had a cat, they’ve left them behind. How many domestic cats have been and are being abandoned in Afghanistan at the moment?
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