Hundreds of Muslims show up at 'touch a dog' event in Malaysia

More than 800 people turned up at Malaysia's first ever I Want To Touch A Dog event on Sunday, and half of the crowd were Muslims.

The event held at the One Utama shopping complex in Petaling Jaya was focused on getting rid of the negative misconceptions of dogs many Malaysian Muslims have, reported The Star. 

It was so successful that it turned out to be one of the largest impromptu events, organised in just three weeks.

Those who wanted to touch a dog had to wear yellow clothing, those who wanted to just watch had to wear orange and volunteers and pet owners had to wear red. The colour codes allowed for everybody to respect each other's boundaries and to enjoy the event at their own comfort level.

Fatimah, 23, (below) is a mother of two and was probably the last person you'd expect to see at the event as she was covered in a full black veil with only her eyes visible, yet she walked among the dogs totally at ease.

"I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs and about the cleansing. I've never done such a thing before," she said.

The dogs that were at the event were all thoroughly vetted by the organisers.

The event began with a religious talk by religious teacher Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin, 33, who is a Masters student at UTM's Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (Casis).

He explained that while dogs’ saliva is considered unclean, Muslims should not fear the animal or view it with disgust.

Dog handlers then explained to the crowd on how they should approach and pet the dogs.

They were also given lessons on how to cleanse themselves (sertu or samak) after touching the dogs.

Photos: The Star, Facebook

Though some Muslims view touching a dog as "taboo", organiser Syed Azmi Alhabshi decided that the best way for people like him to get over the fear of dogs was to just be around them.

"I didn't expect many people to come in yellow or orange. I didn't expect the kids. Having the kids here is the best thing ever. We are doing this for them." - Organiser Syed Azmi Alhabshi ​

"This is just a baby step for us. I don't know whether people will now understand not to throw stones at dogs but we want people to know that if they are not knowledgeable or are curious about things, they should just ask."

"If we ask nicely, people will respond," said Syed Azmi, who is a registered pharmacist.

“I am very happy. I touched many dogs and carried them. My favourite is the huskies.” - Nur Aliyah Mohd Nasir, seven, who was among the children at the event.

Source: The Star