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No Ban on Guide Dogs Under Islamic Law

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed with permission from Disability World, a bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 16 (November / December 2002) http://disabilityworld.org

Recent guidance from the Sherrat Council has confirmed that trained assistance dogs can accompany disabled people into restaurants or taxis managed or driven by Muslims in Great Britain. With two million Muslims in Great Britain, many running businesses in the service sector, this represents an important ruling with potentially far-reaching effects.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires service providers to change practices deemed to be discriminatory. Therefore, this guidance helps to clarify religious law and prevent any possible conflict with secular law.

"Islam is a religion that cares for people. Although it is not encouraged to keep a dog in the house, if the dog is owned for reasons of safety then it is permitted. When a disabled person is accompanied by a trained dog, such a dog becomes a blind person's eyes, and therefore such a dog should not be stopped from entering with a blind person."

According to Shariah, a guide or assistance dog qualifies as a highly trained or taught animal that is essential to the independence of a disabled person. Although it would never be acceptable to bring a dog into a Mosque, all Muslims would be aware of this, and non-Muslims would be unlikely to want to enter one.

Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) commented: "The DRC had a very fruitful meeting with Lord Ahmed. Disabled Muslim people will welcome this guidance from the Sherrat Council as it will help prevent any possible conflicts of interest in the future. There have been cases where, for example, a taxi driver has been unwilling to carry an Assistance Dog due to religious observance. Normally these issues are resolved amicable. However, we thought it wise to clarify the issue as these instances are likely to occur in the future."

For further information, please contact Will Dingli will.dingli@drc-gb.org

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