Iran's ruling clerics have long been opposed to dog ownership, but they're on the verge of declaring all-out war on man's best friend, as well as the Iranians who own them. A group of 39 Iranian lawmakers introduced a bill — denounced by some as "ridiculous" — that would formally criminalize dog ownership, punishable by up to $500 in fines and confiscation of the pooch. Not only are dogs "unclean," the lawmakers say, but owning them "has become a problem for society and represents a blind imitation of vulgar Western culture." Huh? What's really behind Iran's war on dogs?
This is about politics, not pooches: Pet dogs in Iran used to be "as irrelevant to daily life as dinosaurs," says Azadeh Moaveni in TIME. Until 15 years ago, few Iranians owned them. But then Iran developed "an urban middle class plugged into and eager to mimic Western culture," and now "lap dogs rival designer sunglasses as the upper-middle-class Iranian's accessory of choice." This is the same group that opposes the hard-line Islamist government, thus the crackdown.
"The latest enemies of Iran: Dogs and their owners"
Iran's anti-dog platform is nothing new: The clerics are probably right that "keeping dogs as pets goes against Iranian values," says Sara Ghasemilee in Al Arabiya, and periodic dog seizures do happen in Iran. And because Islam traditionally views canines as "unclean," Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi has even issued a fatwa against befriending dogs. But even he acknowledges "that the Koran does not explicitly prohibit contact with dogs."
"Dogs? Iran clerics, legislators growl at the thought"
Maybe we should blame Paris Hilton: Iran's clerics have particularly "denounced 'short-legged' and 'holdable' canines," says Jeff Neumann at Gawker. So there's obviously "more to it than just trying to keep the country's streets clean." If you read their statements closely, a specific target emerges: "Western cultural export Paris Hilton," and, presumably, everything she stands for. "Vulgar? Check. Cultural problem? Check. Owner of 'holdable' dog? Check." Looks like Fido is just a proxy in a culture war.
"Is Paris Hilton to blame for Iran's proposed dog ban?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Let us now praise Billy Joel
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week