By  Emdad Rahman, IOL Correspondent

LONDON — A mosque in the city of Leicester will soon allow a dog into its premises to help its blind owner attend congregational prayers, a precedent supported by the umbrella Muslim organization and welcomed by congregants.“To tackle the inevitable issue of a Muslim owned guide dog we engaged in conferences with relevant agencies, imams and mosques in Leicester to learn, raise awareness and tackle the issue,” Imam Ibrahim Mogra, chair of the interfaith committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told IslamOnline.net.

“One mosque has been identified in Leicester and we will pilot a case there in 2008.”

Leaders of Al-Falah Mosque have agreed to allow Mahomed Khatri, a blind Muslim teen, to be accompanied by a guide dog into the mosque premises.

The retriever is undergoing specialist training by Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, a national association which provides guide dogs, to assist and enable Khatri pray in the mosque.

It will remain in a purpose-built kennel outside the prayer hall of the mosque and wait for the blind teen to come out after worship.

Imam Mogra said the MCB, the umbrella organization of Britain’s two million Muslims, carried out a full review of the Shari`ah ruling on keeping dogs.

“It is correct to say that the saliva of a dog is regarded impure,” he noted.

“In this case the guide dogs are highly trained. A lot of money is invested in their training and these animals are very disciplined, and highly unlikely to jump on people, sniff them unnecessarily or lick their faces, or any other parts of a person’s body.”

A retriever salivates less than other dogs and thus reduces of the risk of flicking spittle onto worshippers.

Khatri’s retriever is getting extra training to restrain it from instincts to lick its owner.

Islam forbids Muslims to keep dogs as pets. However it is permissible to have a dog for legitimate benefits such as hunting or guarding.

Urgent

MCB leaders saw tackling the issue of guide dogs as urgent, given recent incidents in which Muslim restaurant owners and taxi drivers refused customers with guide dogs.

“We initially got in touch with national guide dog associations after controversies highlighted in the media, surrounding the reluctance of taxi drivers to allow guide dogs into their vehicles,” said imam Mogra.

In June, Sallahaddin Abdullah was fined £200 in Cambridge after refusing to allow a blind couple into his taxi because they had a guide dog.

The MCB then issued a ruling saying British Muslims should allow guide dogs to enter restaurants and taxis.

Mogra affirmed that Shari`ah does not preclude being around guide dogs, and it is actually an Islamic duty to help the visually impaired.

“We have been involved in consultations for a period of time and therefore acknowledge that a guide dog enhances the health and safety of an individual, it helps a person and enables better mobility.”

Welcome

Al-Falah Mosque congregants welcomed allowing Khatri’s guide dog into their mosque.

“I am not bothered in the slightest,” Sulaiman Patel, a regular worshipper at the mosque, told IOL.

Patel insists that the blind Muslim teen should receive every possible support to help him pray at the mosque.

“I can’t see any arguments against it,” added the 26-year-old bakery manager.

“I’m very proud that my mosque is leading on this.”

Idris Desai, 32, praised the Al Falah Mosque administration for accommodating Khatri’s needs.

“It’s no big deal. The dog will not be standing next to worshippers.”

Mariam Lorgat, a student at Loughborough University where Khatri studies, also commended the mosque leaders.

“It is appropriate that we are discussing relevant issues like this,” said Lorgat, a regular Al-Falah Mosque congregant.

“As time goes on there will be more guide dog users, all over the country.

“This will help break many barriers.”