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Black Puppy Police Outrage 2008-07-02

Posted by clype in Humanities, Intolerance, Scotland.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Muslims outraged at police advert featuring cute puppy sitting in policeman’s hat

A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman’s hat advertising a Scottish police force’s new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims.

Tayside Police’s new non-emergency phone number has prompted complaints from members of the Islamic community.

The choice of image on the Tayside Police cards — a black dog sitting in a police officer’s hat — has now been raised with Chief Constable John Vine.

The advert has upset Muslims because dogs are considered ritually unclean and has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert. Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif said:

‘It was probably a waste of resources going to these communities.

‘They (the police) should have understood.

‘Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they’d seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn’t have done it.

‘My concern was that it’s not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards.

Councillor Asif, who is a member of ‘The Tayside Joint Police Board’, said that the force had a diversity adviser and was generally very aware of such issues.

He raised the matter with Mr Vine at a meeting of the board.

The chief constable said he was unaware of the concerns and that the force had not sought to cause any upset but added he would look into the matter. Councillor Asif said:

‘People who have shops just won’t put up the postcard. But the police have said to me that it was simply an oversight and they did not seek to offend or upset.’

Cards featuring police dog-in-training Rebel have been distributed to communities throughout the area to advertise the single number point of contact for non-emergency calls to the police.

Rebel has proved a popular recruit for Tayside Police after coming through the very first Lothian and Borders Police dog-breeding programme in February.

One of seven German Shepherd pups born in early December, he has now completed his course of inoculations, and is free to venture out onto the streets of Tayside.

A spokesman for Tayside Police said:

‘His incredible world-wide popularity — he has attracted record visitor numbers to our website — led us to believe Rebel could play a starring role in the promotion of our non-emergency number.

‘We did not seek advice from the force’s diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards. That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.

‘Trainee police dog Rebel has proved extremely popular with children and adults since being introduced to the public, aged six weeks old, as Tayside Police’s newest canine recruit.

Claims that a promotional police postcard featuring a puppy is offensive to members of the Islamic community have been dismissed by one of Dundee’s leading Muslims.

A storm of controversy erupted yesterday after a report in ‘The Courier Newspaper’ revealed that some members of the Islamic community have complained about the postcard.

Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif claimed the postcard, advertising Tayside Police’s new non-emergency telephone number, could offend some Muslims because it features a black German shepherd dog sitting in a police officer’s hat.

It is understood some Muslims have been upset by the image because in Islam dogs are generally considered unclean and cannot be kept as pets — although they can be kept as guard dogs or for hunting.

The postcards, which were produced in late spring, have been distributed to homes and businesses across Dundee to raise awareness of the telephone number.

Tayside Police has since apologised for failing to run the seemingly innocuous ad. by their diversity advisers after Councillor Asif raised the issue at a meeting of the Tayside joint police board.

But Mr Asif’s comments have won little support among the public or Dundee’s Islamic community.

Last night Mahmud Sarwar, trustee of ‘The Scottish Islamic and Cultural Centre’ and the Dura Street mosque, appealed for calm.

He said he had no problems with the postcard and called on homeowners and local businesses to display them as it is in the public interest.

‘I’ve not heard anything about that from members of the community,’ Mr Sarwar said.

‘I was round some shops today and at the mosque and nobody has said anything about it.’

Mr Sarwar said that religious sensitivities would prevent him from displaying the postcard on a building of religious significance but there was nothing to stop them being displayed in shops.

‘There is not a dog — it is just a picture,’ he said.

Mr Sarwar also queried whether the concerns raised by Councillor Asif belonged to him or his constituents.

‘Maybe that is his own thinking –everyone has the right to say things regarding their own wishes,’ he said.

The controversy erupted when Councillor Asif said he was concerned the cards would not be welcomed in all communities and had been a waste of police resources.

The issue has generated intense interest from people across the region and beyond, many of whom contacted The Courier to express their point of view.

One concerned resident said,

‘The story mentioned that Muslim-owned shops and convenience stores were rejecting the card due to the fact that it had a picture of a puppy on it and that Muslims found this offensive as they deem dogs to be “unclean.”

‘Surely these cannot be the same Muslim-owned shops which have dog food cans and packets on the shelves and bacon and pork sausages in the chill cabinet with the pictures of happy pups and contented porkers beaming from the packaging?’

A resident from Wolseley Street, Dundee, said,

‘However I am amazed at the reaction Mohammed Asif expresses.

‘Many of the shops he mentions — if not all — sell dog food, complete with graphic labels. Should they not wish for whatever reason to support an initiative by our local police, so be it.

‘I have always endeavoured to be considerate to others regardless of race, colour, creed, etcetera.’

Steve Ross, of Fleming Gardens, said,

‘Tayside Police may be forced to spend valuable funds on changing the postcard they have produced to advertise their new non-emergency phone number because a certain section of the community consider a dog to be dirty — just let’s get on with our lives and preserve British culture.

‘As a cat owner I don’t care too much for dogs but I do about the spending of what I assume to be public money to pacify a few.’

After reading about it on The Courier website, Eileen McInally, from Santa Monica, California, was prompted to write,

‘How can anyone find an image of a dog offensive? Absolutely no apology is necessary.

‘The complainers should be reminded that Britain is a Christian country, full of people who love dogs.

‘This story is absolutely unbelievable — what wrong have the police done?

‘Cheers’, an off-licence on Campfield Square, Broughty Ferry, which is owned and operated by Muslims, has not been given the postcards to display or distribute.

Shop assistant Irza Saeed said, however, ‘Cheers’ would be happy to have the postcards featuring police-dog-in-training Rebel and advertising the new contact number for non-emergency calls to the police.

‘I don’t feel that I’d be especially concerned or upset if we were given the postcards to distribute or that there would be anything wrong with that. However, it is part of Islam that we don’t have dogs around us.

‘Most of our people are afraid of dogs but we try not to make a big deal of it.

‘We have a lot of customers of different cultures and religions but we are owned by Muslims and the workers are Muslim,’ Miss Saeed said.

German shepherd Rebel has generally proved a popular recruit for the force, with huge numbers of people reading his on-line training diary on the Tayside Police website. He is yet to mention the current furore on-line.

A police spokesman said last night,

‘Rebel has proved extremely popular with the public in Tayside, Scotland, throughout the UK and abroad.

‘The force will continue to keep the public up to date with his progress through the Puppy Diary on the force website.

‘Rebel only features in this particular campaign.’

When asked if the controversy would affect the way Tayside Police promoted its public image in future the spokesman said,

‘The postcards and posters are already in circulation and there are no plans to have them withdrawn.

‘However, we already had alternative designs and are looking at the possibility of making those available for anyone who deems the current design to be unsuitable.

‘As we have already stated, it was an oversight on this occasion that the diversity adviser was not consulted.

The Courier tried to contact Mr Asif last night but he was unavailable for comment.



1. Puppy lover - 2008-11-21

Watch out for the new puppy coming your way soon, even more cute than Rebel!

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