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Muslim Malaysia Jails Woman for Washing Dogs during Ramadan

Muslim Malaysia Jails Woman for Washing Dogs during Ramadan

by Richard S. Ehrlich | Bangkok, Thailand
August 12, 2013

Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have jailed a dog trainer for uploading a video of herself washing and feeding dogs while an Islamic call to prayer plays as the soundtrack, but she denies insulting the religion which could result in five years in prison.

Police arrested Maznah Muhammad Yusof on July 31 after receiving complaints about the YouTube video which ends with the Malay-language words, "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri" which can translate as "Good afternoon on the Celebration Day of Eid al-Fitr".

Throughout the Muslim world, Eid al-Fitr is a major feast of celebration at the end of Ramadan. This year in Malaysia, it ended on August 8.

Maznah -- who is Muslim -- allegedly uploaded her one-minute, 44-second video to YouTube three years ago.

Someone who perceived it as "insulting Islam" recently reposted it, and the video went viral on social media in the Southeast Asian country.

It begins with an Arabic-language Muslim call to prayer, which is heard throughout the video.

A person appears, walking three dogs on leashes in a residential neighborhood.

The scene switches to a room where a person's hands are shown using a bowl to wash a dog's front paw, and dry it with a cloth.

Next, in a tiled room, a person uses a wall-mounted faucet to wash their bare leg while their pants are rolled up to the knees.

Maznah's face appears when she dries her hair.

The short-haired woman then dries a dog's face.

Maznah then sits on a sofa, and places small yellow snacks on a table in front of three dogs, which eagerly devour them.

Maznah's case comes under Penal Code Section 298A, of the "Offenses Relating to Religion".

That law includes any "words" or "visible representations" or other "act" deemed "likely to cause disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will" among religious people, according to Malaysia's Penal Code.

Punishment can be up to five years in prison.

"She did say she is under arrest," her lawyer, Latheefa Koya, told a Free Malaysia Today reporter.

"It is not right for the concept of ablution, a method for which Muslims clean themselves, to be equated with washing dogs' legs," stated one of several complaints to police, according to Free Malaysia Today.

Throughout the world, Muslims wash their arms, hands, lower legs and bare feet before praying -- traditionally five times a day -- to ensure cleanliness.

"I have no intention to demean Islam," Maznah, 38, told

"I made the video for fun, but later decided to educate outsiders on dogs and cleanliness."

"To us, those involved in making the video had intended on angering Muslims by likening them to dogs while the 'takbir' (prayer call) is playing in the background," said the influential Malaysian Islamic Development Department's Director-General Othman Mustapha.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.

His websites are:

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