Syed Azmi Abhalshi, the man behind the controversial “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, has apologised for the furore it has caused. However, the social activist stressed that the programme was meant to be educational and not to promote liberalism, as alleged by certain quarters.
The objective of the controversial programme is to help Malaysians familiarise themselves with dogs and overcome their fear of dogs. The event also hoped to essentially help erase the negative cultural stigma attached to dogs e.g. dogs are unclean, it’s illegal for Muslims to touch dogs, etc. However, it has been widely criticised despite its major success.
As reported by The Star, he told a packed press conference at Kelab Sri Selangor today (25th Oct), “I organised this event because of Allah, not to deviate the people’s faiths, try to change the Islamic rules of law, poke fun at the ulama or encourage pluralism.”
Reading from a press statement, he admitted that there were weaknesses in the programme, and apologised for the trouble and insensitivities that the programme caused. Syed Azmi left the press conference immediately after reading the statement and did not take any questions from the floor. His lawyer, Syahredzan Johan, said Syed Azmi had to leave for his own safety as he was getting “severe death threats” since the event was held last Sunday at Central Park in Bandar Utama.
2 days ago, American publication TIME magazine also wrote about the controversy, affirming that Syed has received death threats and torrents of online abuse for organising the dog-familiarisation event that religious conservatives claim insults Islam. It was said that he has now been forced into hiding after hard-liners insisted he “should be stoned to death”.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) said it would be conducting an investigation into the event, which attracted about 800 people – half of them Muslims. The event, aimed at dispelling negative perceptions of dogs – particularly among Muslims – started out as a small get-together for those curious about dogs.
Earlier, Syed Azmi also stressed that the programme was never meant to encourage people, particularly Muslims, to adopt dogs as pets, but merely to give them an idea on how to help dogs if they are in a difficult situation. He said he had also received approval from the Selangor Mufti Department, which had given the organisers guidelines on how to handle the animals.
“During the event, the participants were also given detailed explanation on rules and regulations on how to handle dogs,” he said, adding that “sertu” (the Islamic way of purifying after being in contact with dogs) was also explained to the participants.
“Once again, I would like to apologise for any reaction this programme had caused. I would also like to say thank you for all the comments made to me. This is a learning process for me,” he said, adding he had no intention to cause disharmony.
What do you guys think though? Is this simply the case of something that has been blown out of proportion? Did Syed really need to apologise for organising the “I Want to Touch A Dog” event? Or was he being insensitive towards the Muslims’ beliefs?
Sound off in the comments box below!