February 26, 2022
Religious hardliners in Iran have slammed Azar Mansouri, the first female party leader, for keeping a dog at home and “trying to normalize living with dogs”.
The reformist newspaper Shargh published a video February 15 – along with a feature article “One Day With Madam Secretary General” – in which Mansouri talked affectionately with a dog.
Mansouri, who was elected secretary-general of the reformist Etehad-e Mellat (National Unity) Party in December, said that her son and daughter-in-law had brought the pooch home but had hidden him from her. Mansouri said she had at first been upset, but after a week refused to let them take the dog away “because it showed a lot of affection.”
Dogs are generally considered ‘impure’ in Islam and banned in public places by some majority-Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia. Iranian parliamentarians in November proposed a bill making illegal selling and keeping of pets. They claimed the ban was meant to protect public health. While working dogs have always been common in Iran’s rural areas and on farms, keeping pets has only recently become fashionable in urban areas.
The video was pounced on by hardliner rather than reformist media. Fars news agency noted that “reformists who claim it is people’s right to know have chosen silence about Mansouri’s remarks.” The Fars report suggested the reformists’ “unedited” images showed “disrespect for Islamic sanctities” and promoted “anomalous cultural behavior.”
A few days later, a second video appeared on social media showing an elderly lady at prayer with a dog playfully jumping at her, tugging her veil, and playing on her prayer rug. Some sharing the video said it showed Mansouri promoting “living with dogs”.
Pets, not children
One widely shared tweet critical of Mansouri quoted the Prophet Mohammad saying, “there is no blessing in a house where there are no children.” The tweet suggested that the “reformist Azar Mansouri and the rest of her gang” were promoting dogs as an alternative to children. Another tweet claimed that an obsession with pets had contributed to “destruction of the foundation of families” in the west, echoing views expressed by Pope Francis in January.
Ali Najmedin, a political analyst, alleged that reformists were trying to “to normalize indecency” and “desensitize” Iranian society to other steps including flouting the hijab, adultery and homosexuality.
But Hossein Kermanpour, a prominent physician in Tehran with reformist leanings, rose in defense of the National Unity Party and her mutt. “Dear Azar Mansouri, those who have intentionally claimed you were the kind elderly mother a dog affectionately tries to play with while she is at prayer know that dogs do not destroy a human being’s connection with God,” he tweeted. “What distances humans from God is poverty, oppression, dishonor and injustice if they happen under Islamic rule.”