I can’t imagine anything worse than not being able to see. Besides the obvious inability to enjoy a beautiful sunset, or a field of colorful wildflowers, or watching the latest megahit on a large movie screen, the mere fact that you have absolutely no clue what surrounds you is frightening, at the very least. I admire blind people for their immense courage in tackling a world that for the rest of us sighted ones, can oftentimes be tremendously daunting. Imagine trying to cross a busy street, without being able to see. Or cooking a meal for yourself. Or trying to shave.
Some people are fortunate enough to have guide dogs to help with their needs, but being animals their ability to help is obviously limited. They are most helpful getting people to and from various locations, and give the blind person a sense of comfort and safety. Trained to help their owner navigate the world, you often see them leading their ‘person’ along a sidewalk, or onto a bus. A colleague of mine, a blind actor, has a ‘seeing-eye dog’, and although I’m not fond of large dogs Micah is the sweetest thing you could ever meet. She adores my friend and he depends on her for so much.
Not everyone has to like dogs, but when it comes to blind people one would think that anyone with a heart would agree that they deserve to have these dogs. After all, no one chooses to be blind. But there are those who don’t see it that way. Muslims in recent years have become rather vocal in their opposition to dealing with people who have dogs. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Somali cab drivers at the International Airport were refusing to transport people with guide dogs because according to the Quran, dogs are unclean. The problem has worsened in countries like England, in spite of the fact that there are laws against discriminating against the disabled.
According to an article on the UK Daily Mail Online, blind people and their dogs are being thrown off buses by either Muslim bus drivers or because Muslims on-board have thrown a hissy-fit about the accompanying dogs. They are also being refused cab rides for the same reason.
One pensioner, a cancer sufferer, told how had twice been confronted by drivers and asked to get off the bus because of his guide dog, and had also faced hostility at a hospital and in a supermarket over the animal.
The troubles that the 73-year-old pensioner, George Herridge, has encountered isn’t an isolated case. Apparently this is an ongoing problem that the government needs to address.
The problem to carry guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was raised in the House of Lords last week, prompting transport minister Norman Baker to warn that a religious objection was not a reason to eject a passenger with a well-behaved guide dog.
Yesterday both the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the National Federation of the Blind confirmed the problem was common, and, according to the latter organisation was ‘getting worse’.
The Muslim Council of Britain claims that it’s the saliva of a dog that is what is considered unclean, and has shown some common sense when it has advised UK Muslims
to show tolerance and common sense over the issue. ‘We need to be flexible on this,’ a spokesman said. ‘Muslim drivers should have no hesitation in allowing guide dogs into their bus or car. ‘If a dog does lick you, it’s not the end of the world. Just go home and wash yourself.’
But if the problem is pandemic throughout England, as it seems to be, they are obviously not doing a good enough job to persuade the UK Muslims to have a heart. I don’t think God, Allah or whatever you choose to call your Supreme Being would be too happy with such gross discrimination against some of the most vulnerable of our population. Sometimes you have to look at your beliefs and ask yourself if what you are doing is being harmful to others, and if so, you need to make some adjustments. Being mean and harmful to another is a far bigger sin than being licked by a dog.