The Muttawa, the religious police of Saudi Arabia, in a memo from the Municipal Affairs Ministry, have issued a decree banning the sale of cats and dogs in the cities of Jidda (Jeddah) and Mecca. The Muttawa have been granted the power to create and enforce rules that they deem appropriate for the strict enforcement of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Arab News reported in August 2006 that the Makkah Governorate acted on a request from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
Many conservative Muslims disapprove of dogs as unclean, so an anti-canine policy, making Arabia a bark-free zone, is not too surprising. In Iran, the religious police sometimes scold people who parade their messy dogs in public. But it is somewhat startling for Muslim authorities to prohibit cats, as there are several stories told of the prophet Muhammad being with cats. It is said that once when Muhammad was called to prayer, his Abyssinian cat Muezza was asleep on the sleeve of his robe, and so the prophet cut off the sleeve, so as to not disturb the cat.
But now, keeping cats, especially fancy breeds, is regarded in Arabia as a Western influence. So the religious authorities are creating prohibitions not based on a strict reading of the Qur'an, but on keeping out any emulation of the infidel globally dominant Western culture.
If the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice wishes to preserve Saudi Arabian culture pure of Western influences, rather than prevent the residents from seeing the cat, it seems to me there are truly bad influences that should take priority. These include:
1) A ban on all neckties, which look colorful, but are unhealthy, choking male necks all day long, possibly shortening the male life span. This pernicious male dress appendage originated in Croatia (hence called "cravat") and has spread its strangulating effects world wide.
2) Strictly prohibit all soft drinks, both with sugar and with aspartame. These are unhealthy and are prime exemplars of Western economic imperialism. Since natural coconut juice tastes so good, why drink anything else?
3) Banish all hot dogs and hamburgers. The are unhealthy, especially hot dogs, and the animals that the products are made from are raised in cruel ways.
4) Prohibit LOUD rock music, which makes young people go deaf, and disturbs the neighbors.
5) Confiscate and destroy all cell phones used by people in cafés and public transit. This is self-explanatory.
6) Abolish the income tax, value added tax, and sales tax. These are tools of Western imperialism designed to prevent the less developed countries from rapidly achieving the development of Western economies, which can afford to waste resources. I need not remind the Commission that the Qur’an prohibits theft.
7) The English language. Its spelling and grammar are irrational, which then makes impressionable young minds think that everything else is also arbitrary. It has become global only because of British and American imperialism. Stop teaching English in Saudi Arabia, and switch all international communications to Esperanto, which is simple and consistent.
I must admit, as a matter of full disclosure, that I own two cats, and I am fond of cats. So I am biased in favor of cats. As one gazes into the eyes of a cat, it is impossible to know the mystery of what it is thinking, although I guess it is usually "I want more food."
It is also said of those who have become clear of economic confusion, that they see the cat. So it is doubly regrettable when people are not allowed to behold the beauty of the cat. Indeed, as Western governments have suppressed seeing the cat, Saudi Arabia should welcome the public viewing of cats.
It is a global catastrophe that economies have been made catatonic by the cauterizing effects of cataractic taxation. Saudi Arabia must let people sell cats and own cats, regardless of breed, not just because it is well within Islamic tradition, but so that just maybe it will help them to see the economic cat as well.
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.