The Rover Rebellion: Dogs Are New Symbol of Iranian Revolt

Muslims have kept dogs for centuries. For example, Salukis, a breed of hunting dog, have historically been valued by the Bedouin.

According to a recent news report in The Guardian, the extremist government and religious mullahs in Iran disapprove of dogs as pets. They are “unclean.” So now the pampered pooch become the latest sign of middle-class dissent. All I can say is that there are a million ways to undermine a dictatorship and the Iranians have found another one.

Recently a visitor from Iran assured me that her dog was staying at a five-star spa in Tehran for the duration of her trip. I had no idea she had a dog in the first place, but was struck that she had insisted in telling me such a thing. Over the past few years, dog ownership has become yet another unlikely arena for the social and political dispute within the tumultuous politics of Iran.

… The past 1,400 years or so haven’t been that much fun for dogs in Iran. All that has come to change paradoxically through the very same religion responsible for their plight. Their recent popularity and adulation must have taken Iranian dogs by surprise. Dogs are now as much symbols of safe, middle-class resistance as false eyelashes and green wristbands. Pooches have never had it so good, and rare breeds, especially small lap dogs, change hand for tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An underground industry of dog beauty parlors thrives, mostly run out of private homes, as do a plethora of canine protection and welfare charities. A legal and substantial kennel industry has developed into what is fancily called “dog spas” where the middle class deposit their dogs when on holiday or, in the case of some of my conflicted relatives, when a devout auntie comes to stay.

The industry booms further every time a firebrand preacher calls for their banning or admonishes dog owners from such platforms like the much loathed national radio and TV. Its been a long time coming, but Iranian dogs are having their day.

Now we can add to the 2002 Great Key Shaking Revolt in Buenos Aires and the 2009 Pant-Wearing Defiance of Women in Sudan. Yes. It’s the Rover Rebellion. Biscuits all ’round.

Kwok Pui-Lan: From Tiananmen to Tehran

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Kwok Pui-lan is Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.

She is an Asian feminist theologian that I’ve always been very impressed with. Her writing on the role of the Bible in a non-Bible culture was eye-opening–as well as all of her scripture interpretation from the perspective of the colonialized.

In a recent blog post at Religion Dispatches, she examines the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square revolt with the current uprising in Iran:

On the twentieth anniversary of June 4, Tiananmen Square was relatively quiet and heavily guarded by the police. Hong Kong, as a Special Administrative Region, was the only place in China where a public candlelight vigil could be held. Several Christian groups in Hong Kong have helped organizing these annual vigils and pushed for the vindication of the June 4 demonstrators. The Hong Kong Christian Patriotic Democratic Movement issued a twentieth anniversary prayer, which says:

Righteous and peaceful God,
We pray to you.
The tears of Tiananmen mothers have not dried.
The curse of the wrongful deaths has not been lifted.
We pray that we will have a gentle and humble heart
To hold steadfast to our belief
And not allow distorted history have the last word . . .
Even though the dark night may be long
The light of our hope will be as long. . .

Last week as the world watched the demonstration of the Iranian people, images of the Tiananmen crackdown flashed back on many people’s minds. President Barack Obama invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He continued, “We are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”

Read her whole post here.

Kwok Pui-lan’s the author of Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology, and editor of the major 4-volume reference work Women and Christianity (coming out in October 2009 from Routledge).