Are dogs haram in Islam

Cora garlic
Radioeins reporter in Kuala Lumpur

Radioeins journalist Cora Knoblauch spent the whole of October in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What was she doing there? As part of the Goethe-Institut's close-up journalists' exchange, she was a guest on the Malaysian radio station "BFM 89.9", which radioeins will then send a colleague to in November.

Cora Knoblauch in conversation with Volker Wieprecht

Hello Cora or how would I greet you adequately in Malaysian?

“Have you already eaten something?” Eating is the most important thing here, without a warm meal in your stomach you are practically not a person. In the thousands of restaurants and street kitchens in Kuala Lumpur you can eat warm at any time of the day or night; there are actually no fixed lunch and dinner times like ours. You can also order a chicken curry at ten in the morning, completely normal.

Now you are not sent to Kuala Lumpur just to eat, but to make the radio or to see how radio journalists work there. What are the biggest differences?

To be honest, I was quite surprised to find a station on the other side of the world that is insanely similar to radioeins. BFM - that's the name of the station - is basically the radioeins of Kuala Lumpur. In that sense, I feel a bit like at home.

However, there is one big difference that we don't know in Germany: the censorship. Malaysia's state religion is Islam, in addition to civil law, at least Sharia laws apply to Muslims here. In this respect, there are topics that journalists cannot easily write and talk about here: e.g. homosexuality and abortion - to name two.

Making radio in Malaysia

What does it look like in everyday life at BFM, the broadcaster you are a guest at?

BFM works on these topics anyway! The station is considered the only free broadcaster in Kuala Lumpur. BFM regularly interviewed activists who campaign for the acceptance of homosexuality and transgender, for example, or against child marriages or gynecologists who look after unmarried, pregnant young girls. But the moderators have to think carefully beforehand how they will formulate their questions. Some words are then not spoken. Before getting into trouble with a Sharia representative, the moderator censors himself beforehand. Instead of “abortion”, the moderator talks to the gynecologist about “family planning”. But the listeners know what is meant. And these programs have a good audience rate.

Has the BFM happened before? So that the Sharia police were at the door?

Yes, a couple of times. There were then time-consuming interrogations with the moderator, the editor and the editor-in-chief of BFM. In the end, however, BFM was always allowed to keep its approval. It often looks more difficult for interview guests when they speak too openly. An Islamic women's organization that campaigns against polygamy and child marriages, among other things, has already received a fatwa based on interviews. Photo (detail): © Cora Knoblauch

Bans lead to trickery

You say that Islam is the state religion in Malaysia, Sharia laws apply. How well do you get along with it as a western woman? Or: what effects does that have for you?

At first none. Kuala Lumpur is a big city. Half of the residents of Kuala Lumpur are Chinese or of Chinese descent, and many Indians live here, neither of whom are usually Muslim and consequently do not wear any Muslim clothing. In addition to the Muslim state religion, the Malaysian constitution explicitly states that other religions are to be tolerated. So there are no dress codes in public life and Chinese pagodas and Hindu temples stand in the same street as mosques. So I am not looked at from an angle when I walk around in shorts - I mean here it is 32 degrees Celsius every day!

But there are at least two things where this initially so colorful religious multiculturalism falls apart. First, there are no dogs out on the street here. Dogs are absolutely haram in Islam. Whoever keeps a dog here has to do it more or less secretly and get on well with his neighbors, because if they report a dog owner, he gets rid of his dog quickly. Therefore no dog poop on the streets.

And the second sticking point - that brings us back to the topic of food - are the restaurants. As a rule, all restaurants, whether Indian or Thai, serve their food halal. Hotels also only cook halal food: no pork and a few other rules. Okay, but now to the 50 percent Chinese: Of course they don't cook halal. What would a Chinese restaurant be without crispy fried pork ribs !?

Strictly speaking, a Chinese may not take his pork ribs into the office because it destroys the entire halal environment. BFM is not so strict here, everyone brings whatever they like into the office. But it is the exception. Conversely, a Muslim is not allowed to enter a Chinese restaurant.

So now there are many mixed marriages, so some of them are of Chinese origin, for example, and only converted to Islam for the wedding. Since they are no longer officially allowed to enter Chinese restaurants, they send a non-Muslim friend to bring them the food. And then they eat it at home or somewhere no one sees them. As always: bans lead to trickery!